Forecast 2015: BR Shetty

Focusing on diversity. Population growth and the introduction of mandatory insurance means that the private healthcare sector is set to grow exponentially in the UAE in the coming years, says NMC Healthcare founder and CEO BR Shetty.
Forecast 2015: BR Shetty
Medicine man: A business-friendly environment makes the UAE an attractive destination for doctors, says Shetty.
By BR Shetty
Sat 03 Jan 2015 09:19 AM

The year 2015 will be an opportunistic one for the healthcare sector in the UAE. The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai, announced at the beginning of 2014, is a game changer and will change the future dynamics of the healthcare sector. We are still at a very early stage of adoption and there is more growth to come. As part of the three-year plan, it is expected that by the end of 2016, around 3 million people in Dubai will have universal health coverage.

This law will continue to drive demand in healthcare and have a multiplier effect across the emirate’s healthcare segment as provision of health coverage will be routed through insurance companies. Healthcare providers will need to increase their capacity and infrastructure to serve the additional residents with healthcare coverage. We expect this reform to have a positive impact on our four facilities in Dubai (Deira, Al Nahda, Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Investments Park) as more Dubai residents are provided with mandatory coverage. This is a good thing for the sector and makes the UAE an attractive market for healthcare providers.

The market for healthcare services overall is moving in the right direction. The healthcare sector has been growing at a rate of 18.1 percent in the UAE, according to the Alpen Capital GCC Healthcare Industry Report issued last April. This is being driven largely by strong population growth, and we continue to add capacity to cater to this demand growth. The growing and changing population mix is already changing the way we look at how we provide healthcare in the future. The UAE has been a predominantly male-dominated society largely due the number of blue-collar jobs in the region. However, this is likely to change over time, and the gradual balancing of the male to female ratio will mean that there will need to be greater diversity in healthcare services offered across the UAE. This means more hospitals that focus on women’s health and, by extension, on children’s health and well-being.

The UAE government’s vision of making the country a top destination for medical tourism over other countries such as Germany and US will be one of the future strategies for the growth of the healthcare sector. NMC Healthcare, through nearly a dozen healthcare facilities across the UAE, caters to people from all socio-economic demographics within the UAE and also within the region.

We will also start to see a greater emphasis on specialist care outside of the gender mix as the introduction of mandatory insurance provides greater incentive for the private sector to diversify away from outpatient care and provide higher quality tertiary care. Surgeons are becoming more specialised within the region and patients are demanding greater onshore expertise in the areas of diagnosis and treatment.

NMC Healthcare has set up numerous centres of excellence in key medical specialties, which are centred on service lines rather than hospitals. We think this will be the model of the future, with all customer communications and recruitment having a specialist focus, and will help the UAE develop further a leading market for healthcare.

The government is investing heavily in healthcare at the federal and the emirate level, and the country’s business-friendly environment makes the UAE a very attractive destination for clinicians and doctors to practise in. There is still more to be done to encourage the greater flow of talent to the region, such as easing the licensing regime to allow free movement of doctors between emirates and strengthening malpractice law. The size and growth of this market has attracted a number of competitors to join the fray, and the opening up of the healthcare sector plus the greater emphasis on mandatory insurance means that the private healthcare sector is set to grow exponentially in the UAE in the coming few years.

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