COULD the Persian Gulf become the next hot destination for medical tourism? That was one of the questions on the minds of delegates at a health conference this week in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The idea may have legs.
For one thing, medical tourism continues to boom globally despite the downturn. High prices and queues in the over-stretched health systems of the rich world have driven many people to seek hip replacements, plastic surgery and other care in Thailand, India and Costa Rica. Deloitte, a firm of consultants, forecasts that the number of Americans going abroad for care will rise to 1.6m in 2012, up from 750,000 in 2007.
Many medical tourists already come to the gleaming hospitals of Dubai, Abu Dhabi’s neighbour. The Dubai government’s growth strategy has long depended on attracting foreign workers and tourists, a feat it accomplishes by being more easy-going than its conservative Islamic neighbours. It is a short step from posh resorts to medical tourism. Dubai plans to host a big medical-tourism congress next year.
The UAE as a whole is not doing badly, either. It has secured partnerships with some brand-name health providers. An offshoot of America’s Cleveland Clinic, for example, is being built in Abu Dhabi. Yet the UAE’s success as a medical hub is likely to hinge not on fancy infrastructure, but on how it handles two big problems.
Read more at economist.