Khaleej Times : UAE has potential to become medical tourism destination by Olivia Olarte

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ABU DHABI – The country’s stern observance for privacy could be the main attraction for individuals seeking to undergo cosmetic or plastic surgery.

According to Dr Prem Jagyasi, CEO of ExHealth, Dubai, despite the UAE’s strategic geographic location, the cost of medical care detracts people from seeking treatment here.

“A lot of people will not come here except for those who are looking for privacy, someone who wants to get his or her plastic surgery done away from (prying eyes) of friends or any member of their community,” Dr Jagyasi told Khaleej Times in an interview.

Medical tourism thrives due to the affordability, accessibility and quality of health care. Geographic proximity, decreased taxation and reduced cost of airline fare are other factors that attract people to a particular destination seeking treatment — from diagnostics to surgery and wellness.

“Our market is not a price-saving market; that means people will be coming here for other factors such as those who are looking for quality services in dental, cosmetic and some elective surgical procedures, general check-ups and diagnostics. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have quality medical services that are very well regulated by the government,” 
Dr Jagyasi pointed out.

Easy accessibility or shorter waiting time for some elective surgical procedures is another attraction, compared to between two to three months waiting time in Canada for a knee surgery.

Noting the lack and sometimes absence of ‘tertiary level’ care here, Dr Jagyasi said, “because we do not have really super specialised care, we should not promote this at all.”

Geographically, the UAE is an ideal medical destination for those coming from the US and Canada as coming here is still affordable compared to the high cost of medical care in their countries, said Dr Jagyasi.

“Cosmetic surgery, dental, some elective surgical procedure and diagnostics — these are the areas in which the country can focus on. However, first the UAE needs to create a national brand. Promoting medical tourism is still a big challenge here,” noted Dr Jagyasi, adding that the health, tourism authorities and the chamber of commerce have to work together to achieve this.

Dr Jagyasi estimated the residents of the Gulf states spent around $2 billion per year on medical care abroad.

“We don’t have exact numbers, but I would say that these figures are realistic. GCC health care spending amounts to $12 billion every year, so it is not unreasonable that $2 billion is spent outside the Gulf countries,” he said.

Read more about Dr Prem Jagyasi at www.DrPrem.com