The medical tourism market is rapidly expanding, many regions across the world are boosting their healthcare systems to meet a wider range of healthcare needs and also provide first-rate care for medical tourists. Following the massive development of free trade zones and healthcare systems across the Middle East, Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries, and North Africa, the medical tourism market in these regions have been expanding rapidly.
The Arab Medical Tourism Index 2020-2021 evaluates the top-ranking destinations in the Arab region that are changing the face of medical tourism in the region and attracting thousands of medical tourists from around the world.
The Medical Tourism Index (MTI), developed by the International Healthcare Research Center, is the industry’s go-to resource that explain how to measure and manage the perception of each destination’s brand. The Arabic Medical Tourism Index was developed in partnership with the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) and Dubai’s health regulator, Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA).
The Medical Tourism Index has become one of the most crucial tools in the industry, serving as a gauge for health payers and patients to determine the most suitable destination for their medical travel needs.
Health consumers no longer have to depend on subjective reports or reviews to make their health travel decisions, an objective tool such as the MTI helps assess medical travel destinations against critical indicators of quality, safety, and destination environment to help medical tourists choose the best destination for their treatments.
The tool also serves as an index of trust in the medical travel industry, as it measures medical tourism providers and businesses against international best practices to sanitize the industry and maintain standards.
The methodology of the first MTI was published in 2014 in Tourism Management Journal, an academic, peer-reviewed publication. The first MTI was a completely new form of analysis on a growing economic trend; since that time, the number of destinations promoting themselves in the medical tourism sphere has steadily increased.
The MTI evaluates medical travel destinations on the “pull” factors that drive the market, with three main factors used as the primary dimensions that drive inbound medical travel: destination environment, medical tourism industry, and the quality of facilities and services. Each dimension is made up of sub-components that evaluate the destination’s capacity to deliver safe and quality healthcare to the international patient.
Destination environment offers a holistic assessment of a destination’s economy, security, culture, and global reputation, which all dictate its attractiveness to foreigners.
Destinations that rank high in this dimension, therefore, show robust economic indices, offer safe patient care journey across all touchpoints of care, and demonstrate cultural competence to provide care to patients across a range of cultural contexts.
Medical Tourism Industry
The medical tourism industry dimension assesses the potency of a destination’s healthcare apparatus for international patients, including treatment costs, effective pre-travel patient communication and planning, as well as other travel logistics, such as accommodation, transportation, and recreational activities for patients and their companions.
Destinations that rank high in this dimension have a solid medical travel infrastructure that offers top-rate services across all the touchpoints of care, from departure to discharge.
Quality of Facilities and Services
Much of a destination or program’s attractiveness as a medical travel hub also depends on the quality of its medical professionals and services. This dimension ranks hospitals and medical tourism providers on how well they offer healthcare solutions, leveraging medical advances and state-of-the-art medical technologies.
This factor also focuses on the safety of care, assessing certain metrics, such as infection control, treatment success rates, complication rates, and re-admission rates. Analysing these indicators help patients and health payers make well informed decisions about their medical travel plans.
Arabic Medical Tourism Index
In the overall Arabic MTI ranking across all three dimensions in the region, Dubai ranked first, topping the list of Arab destinations with top-notch medical tourism offerings. This is followed by Abu Dhabi taking second place, then Oman ranking third. In order of ranking based on the MTI, the top 12 Arab medical tourism destinations include:
- Abu Dhabi
- Saudi Arabia
Dubai ranked highest in the Destination Environment and Quality of Facilities and Services Categories, showcasing its top-rate healthcare infrastructure that has been rapidly improving in the last few decades.
Dubai is the most populous, and easily the most internationally visible city in the United Arab Emirates. Known around the world for its unique, ultramodern architecture and beautiful attractions, Dubai has become one of the most visited countries in the world, with an explosive tourism industry.
Leveraging its phenomenal success as a tourism destination, the Dubai Healthcare Authority, overseeing its healthcare industry recreated its healthcare architecture to not only improve domestic healthcare delivery but also to meet more complex health needs of international patients.
Expanding its healthcare industry began with the launching of the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), which brings together healthcare providers from around the world to offer complex healthcare solutions in more than 168 clinical facilities and 10 hospitals. This has metamorphosed into a powerful healthcare system that can cater to the needs of domestic and international patients requiring complex surgeries leveraging cutting edge technologies.
With the primary aim of attracting more tourists to seek healthcare solutions in Dubai, the DHCC has built strategic partnerships with Centers of Excellence around the world, to consolidate development in healthcare quality, education, and research, and attracting more investment in its healthcare industry.
Dubai continues to receive millions of tourists yearly, hundreds of thousands of which visit the DHCC for mostly complex cosmetic, dental, and fertility treatments. The city, which is home to renowned hospitals, Mediclinic City Hospital and Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, has become a one-stop-shop to medical tourists mainly from the GCC and the wider Arab world.
Dubai also leverages innovation to expand its stake in the industry, launching the Dubai Health Experience (DXH), to position the city as a top healthcare tourism center in the world. The DXH was birthed with the goal of delivering first-rate healthcare together with an unrivalled vacation experience for medical tourists. Tourists can access complex orthopedic, cosmetic, eye, and dental treatment services while enjoying the best tourism experience in the city.
Recently, the Dubai Health Authority launched the “Dubai in One Day,” an innovative medical tourism package targeting international health payers. The initiative showcases Dubai’s innovative health screenings and preventive tools that tourists could access at affordable rates in one day in a matter of hours. This initiative, undoubtedly, will drive more inbound medical travel for the city and offer a competitive edge to its healthcare industry.
The capital city and political seat of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest city in the emirates, comprising more than 85 percent of the total landmass. The city has rapidly evolved to being the cultural hub and economic beacon of the region. Ranking second out of 12 top Arab destinations by the MTI, Abu Dhabi topped the list in the Quality of Facilities and Services dimension, reflecting its huge investment in healthcare training and services.
A few years ago, Abu Dhabi launched the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, which brings together top health leaders and key players in tourism, immigration, and medical tourism facilitation, with the aim of offering top-line healthcare products to international patients. This has been the guide to its rapid, unparalleled development in healthcare in the last decade.
Through the Vision 2030, Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH) has launched strategic collaborations with leading healthcare organizations around the world, to build a comprehensive system to attract and meet the needs of international patients. For instance, in 2019, the DoH partnered with the Medical Tourism Association to host the World Medical Tourism Congress, which saw medical tourism leaders and stakeholders from around the world converge in Abu Dhabi to expand Abu Dhabi’s global market for medical travel.
The yearly event launched by the Global Healthcare Accreditation in collaboration with the Medical Tourism Association, brought global leaders and speakers to the city of Abu Dhabi, with more than 200 prospective health buyers from around the world to explore the medical travel opportunities in the city.
Leveraging this key event, Global Healthcare Accreditation and Medical Tourism Association organized strategic trade missions within and outside the city, establishing key partnerships that would go on to expand Abu Dhabi’s medical tourism market.
The DoH also launched the Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism e-portal, a digital platform that provides medical tourists with details about medical travel offerings available in Abu Dhabi with information about over 40 healthcare facilities included in its medical tourism network. Through the e-portal, prospective health payers can also access medical tourism insurance services as well as contact medical tourism facilitators for their care journey.
Abu Dhabi’s medical tourism network includes renowned medical tourism centers, such as the Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi’s premier private healthcare institution for specialized healthcare, NMC Royal Hospital, and the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology.
Ranking third in the overall MTI evaluation of Arab Destinations, Oman comes second to Dubai in the Destination Environment category, second to Abu Dhabi in the quality of its medical tourism industry, and fourth in the quality of its healthcare facilities and services.
Oman has built one of the most thriving healthcare industries in the Arab region, boasting mega health projects, such as the multibillion-dollar Sultan Qaboos Medical City, that features five top-rated hospitals that deliver complex and specialized treatments, and the International Medical City, consisting of a 530-bed tertiary specialty care hospital, a research center, organ transplant centers, and a healthcare resort.
These projects are part of Oman’s Health Vision 2050, a long-term strategy launched in 2014 to establish a one-stop shop for complex healthcare solutions, leveraging quality training and state-of-the-art advances in technology.
The country also continues to build a strong network within the Arab region, collaborating with centers of excellence across the region, including the Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, which has heralded a new dimension to top-line private healthcare in Oman.
These developments have pushed Oman up the list in the global MTI ranking from its seventh position in the previous Medical Tourism Index to the current position.
Global Healthcare Accreditation
Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) is one of the major players in global medical travel industry, identifying and gauging medical travel programs and destinations against global standards and international best practices. GHA collaborates with several medical tourism organizations and providers around the world, providing training, capacity building, and accreditation to drive trust in the post-COVID-19 world and boost patient experience for patients.
GHA helps medical tourism destinations understand the dynamics of the medical tourism industry, helping them build the right models and partnerships to rank high as a medical tourism hub. For healthcare providers and businesses wishing to leap forward in the industry, key in to numerous GHA's training programs, certification courses, and accreditations to improve the quality of services across the care continuum.
To get the full Arabic Medical Tourism Index Report, click here.