UAE draws more medical tourists than ever

Leading clinics in Dubai are pulling in patients from all across the globe for fertility treatments and family balancing.

August 21, 2019 Jivika, Contributing Content Writer 

The UAE has lately cemented its position as the destination of choice for medical tourists, owing to its wide range of state-of-the-art technology, highly experienced doctors and affordable medical procedures.

Experts across the UAE's medical sector are optimistic about the country's progress in becoming the world's leading destination for quality healthcare in the coming years, more so as the government increases its budget for the sector. Currently, the global medical tourism market is reported to be around US$100 billion and is growing at a rapid rate of approximately 20 per cent year-on-year.

Top rank

The UAE's rise to the list of top 20 most popular medical tourism destinations worldwide vouches for the rapidly increasing medical tourist numbers. The government's vision of making the UAE rank among the top five global medical tourism destinations and the aggressive efforts in this direction are expected to drive more medical tourists to the country. Some noteworthy examples in this direction are the launch of the Dubai government's Dubai Health Experience (DXH) and investor-friendly initiatives like the Dubai Healthcare City.

"The country has developed an advanced infrastructure of specialty healthcare service providers, offering a range of facilities. For example, the Millennium Medical Centre (MMC) IVF attracts patients from across the region who are looking for state-of-the-art infrastructure and effective fertility treatment. A robust healthcare infrastructure, renowned medical experts from around the world, and affordable treatment are some of the major reasons why people prefer the UAE for treatment," says Dr Gautam Allahbadia, an IVF specialist in Dubai.

Primary destination for IVF

The availability of quality fertility treatment in the UAE is also attracting several medical tourists from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world due to the ease of accessibility, competitive affordability and world-class quality treatment, offered by the country.

The fertility treatments offered by the country draw the largest number of medical tourists every year. A large medical tourism market combined with plenty of amenities and services are making Dubai a primary destination for fertility treatments. There are a number of clinics in Dubai that offer safer services, which otherwise are not available in other parts of the world.

For example, the facility to test for overall chromosomal normalcy in embryos, i.e. to detect if there are any genetic diseases running in the family – are making Dubai’s fertility treatments more preferred. Also, the UAE allows couples to opt for the gender of their choice as part of ‘Family Balancing’ (also known as ‘Gender Selection’) to achieve a proportionate representation of both genders in the family. The U.S. and the UAE are the only two countries where this is legal and is one of the prime reasons attracting medical tourists to the country.

“IVF is sought after not just locally, but it is one of the leading treatments undertaken by medical tourists in the UAE, especially in Dubai,” stated Mansoor Ahmed, director for healthcare and education for Mena region at Colliers International told Khaleej Times.

A robust healthcare infrastructure, renowned medical experts from around the world, and affordable treatment are some of the major reasons why people prefer the UAE for treatment.

Viable options

With skilled ART clinicians and embryologists, fertility clinics in Dubai ensure premium healthcare facilities to patients. IVF Lite is another viable option offered by these clinics, which involves a soft stimulation protocol. It provides an efficient and cost-effective alternative to the conventional IVF.

Dr. Allahbadia, who heads the IVF team at MMC IVF says, “With IVF Lite, we give fertility tablets to the patients instead of injections. All the babies have pre-implantation genetic screening done, and parents are even able to choose the gender of the child.”

He explains further, "The cycle begins with a charted-out regimen of fertility inducing medications. All the confirmatory tests for pregnancy are performed before starting the procedure to avoid complications and offer a risk-free fertility treatment to the patients."

The fertility procedures in UAE are opening new doors to the couples hoping to experience the happiness of parenthood. In the light of the current developments, the Dubai Health Authority reportedly aims to attract around 500,000 medical tourists a year by 2020, making it a medical tourism hub. A number of hospitals and medical professionals have been involved in the process to achieve this target, offering flawless medical services to the foreign patients.

Increasing investment

The recent formation of a strategic partnership with China has also added to the influx. Chinese tourists, having increased by 120 per cent in the last five years are now looking at the UAE as an attractive medical tourism destination. Healthcare providers and investors alike are adjusting their products and services to serve them. According to medical tourism experts, Thailand received about 9 million Chinese medical tourists in 2016, and there is no reason why they would not divert their attention to the UAE.

“The field of reproductive medicine is a relatively younger field as compared to other fields of medicine. Over the past few decades, we have gained significant scientific knowledge and experience, improving the chances for couples to become parents. Our clinical research has helped translate our knowledge into practice, making us the leaders in our field," adds Dr Allahbadia.