UAE Healthcare Sector Overview

UAE Healthcare Sector Overview

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most economically sound and diversified markets in the Middle East and boasts of a strong healthcare setup. The existing healthcare system is a mix of government-funded model, as well as special insurance plans for government employees and nationals. The sector is expanding rapidly to suffice the changing needs of a growing population as well as the country’s aspiration to become the regional hub for medical tourism. The health expenditure of UAE reached a value of $14.4 billion (AED 53 billion) in 2019 and is estimated to reach $18.3 billion (AED 67.2 billion) by 2023 at a CAGR of 6% driven primarily by the private sector. This growth is largely supported by –

  • Rise in ageing population paving the way for greater demand for hospital beds and treatments
  • Mandatory medical insurance and privatization of hospitals, continuing to provide thrust to spending
  • Growing emergence and backing for PPP in the healthcare sector

Demand Potential

Rising population growth is a key demand driver. UAE’s population is estimated to increase from 9.7 million people in 2019 to 11.1 million with average life expectancy reaching 79.4 years by 2030.

Demographic shifts are also at play, as the nation’s population slowly begins to age. The share of UAE’s population above the age of 65 is set to rise from current 1.5% to 4.4% by 2030 according to World Bank estimates. This will directly stimulate the healthcare needs for the ageing population. Chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, due to problematic lifestyle habits are also propelling healthcare needs, courtesy sedentary behaviour and poor nutrition. As cases of lifestyle-based diseases surge, these people, backed by comparatively higher levels of income, will demand superior quality of healthcare.


The strong growth to UAE’s healthcare sector faces two key obstacles (a) recruiting and training a sufficient number of medical personnel, nurses and (b) containing costs.

In healthcare specifically, there is considerable need for increased resources, particularly healthcare professionals, to meet the growing healthcare demand. Investment in healthcare is a priority for the federal government, as it is eager to diversify the economy, improve population health, reduce outbound medical travel, and avoid the political unrest seen elsewhere in the region. The fast-paced growth of the sector also puts forward the challenge of containing costs. Healthcare in the UAE tends to be on the costlier side compared to other nations in the region.

UAE government has chalked out strategic plans to handle the growing demand for healthcare as well as meet the associated challenges. The government’s strategic plan “Vision 2021”, makes achieving ‘world-class healthcare’ as one of its key priorities. The Vision 2021 seeks to lessen the occurrence of obesity, diabetes, and smoking among the masses, as well as reduce the number of deaths from cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Dubai has developed strategic plans for Vision 2021 by announcing a medical tourism strategy entailing building 22 hospitals to attract 500,000 medical tourists per year by 2021.


In the UAE, a fresh concept called value-based care is being explored. This model takes a complete view in terms of improving healthcare quality as well as saving costs for the stakeholders.

Health Insurance

The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Abu Dhabi has led to promoting coverage for all UAE people through the “Thiqa” program. Moreover, all employers are mandated to provide health insurance to their employees and their dependents.

As per a research report, increased Public-Private Partnership (PPP) prospects in the UAE will continue to provide momentum to on-going smart hospital projects and digital health programs such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics. With healthcare infrastructure getting a push towards the private sector, we are observing an increase in the number of hospitals and beds and there is an on-going demand for more healthcare services and insurance.

Regional Development

Opportunities to educate and develop UAE medical experts within the nation are expanding—the landscaping is shifting. Today, the country is home to numerous medical universities across the country providing local and international students access to quality education including from pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, and nursing among other fields.

Additionally, as per the DHA Strategy 2016–2021, a federal directive backs Dubai’s aim to attract, retain, and develop the healthcare fraternity, with an aim of providing ready access to world-class medical educational opportunities.

Medical Tourism

The rising advent of medical tourism is a key factor in shaping the healthcare outlook in the UAE. In 2019, the UAE rose to rank within the top 20 medical tourism destinations globally. Medical tourism is expected to contribute US$ 708 million to UAE GDP by 2020, with 13% predicted YoY revenue growth.

Some of the top specialities supporting medical tourism in Dubai are Dermatology and skincare, Orthopedics, dentistry, sports medicine, and fertility treatment. Around 46% of international medical tourists came for dental treatments, followed by orthopaedics (18%) and dermatology (10%) to Dubai. Ophthalmology, wellness, aesthetics and fertility treatments were the other areas amongst medical tourists. Majority of international patients, pegged at 33% – came from Arab and GCC countries.

One of the recent initiatives undertaken by Dubai Health Authority is the Dubai Health Experience (DXH) which is the first medical tourism portal in the entire region enabling tourists to book their entire medical holiday online without any hassle.

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