HEALTHY, WEALTHY, AND WISE

Dubai 2016 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Humaid Al Qatami, Chairman of the Board and Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), on key goals of the Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 and the booming medical tourism sector.

HE Humaid Al Qatami
BIOGRAPHY
HE Humaid Al Qatami was the UAE Minister of Education from 2009 until 2014. He also served as the UAE Minister of Health from 2006 until 2009. Al Qatami holds a master’s degree in administration (1985) from Western Michigan University in the US. He has experience and expertise across the public and private sectors as well as in academia. He is currently Chairman of the Board and Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

The new Dubai Health Strategy 2016-2021 strategy promises a world-class, patient-centric model of healthcare. What key areas of focus have you identified?

The Dubai Healthcare Strategy 2016-2021 is an updated and refreshed strategy, which we designed after extensive stakeholder engagement including feedback and suggestions from 11,000 DHA staff members, the private sector, the public through social media channels, and local governmental authorities. The strategy was developed after a clear understanding of the current strengths, gaps, and state analysis as well as future opportunities. Some of the key features of the strategy are a focus on prevention and a healthy lifestyle, public health and safety, primary care, chronic disease management, private and public partnership and investment, improved governance of the health sector, and medical tourism. One of the main areas of the strategy is enhanced focus on primary and urgent healthcare so that emergency rooms in hospitals do not have to tackle non-emergency cases and can deal with actual emergencies. Prevention and healthy lifestyle is an area that we will significantly focus on through various initiatives aimed at educating and empowering the public to reduce the burden of non-communicable lifestyle diseases. The updated strategy aligns with Dubai Plan 2021, the national UAE plan, key stakeholders, as well as addresses evolving external environment matters.

How did the DHA come up with the initiative to create unique electronic medical records for every patient across all hospitals?

This is an initiative at the federal level that will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and the DHA is one of the key stakeholders to ensure that everyone in the Emirate has an electronic medical record (EMR). EMRs and electronic health records (HER) are ongoing projects that are part of our smart health initiatives. Our aim is to ensure that no matter which hospital or health clinic a patient goes, their electronic file follows them and all patient information including allergies, tests, reports, and so on is available at any time. In addition to the EMR and HER projects, the DHA is working on a number of smart initiatives that provide patients with round-the-clock access to health information. We developed apps such as Sehhaty (my health), which can be used by all family members, providing various options such as keeping check of children's vaccination schedules and appointments. Another app we launched at the end of 2015 was Tifli (my baby), which provides information from preconception until a child is two years of age. So, while EMR and HER is a core focus for us, we are building other initiatives to create a truly smart health environment.

Dubai is five years ahead of schedule to achieve its target of half a million medical tourists. To what do you attribute these quickly increasing numbers?

Dubai offers medical tourists a range of specialties in which they can experience high-quality health services provided by our physicians and healthcare facilities. Dubai is among the top 15 medical tourism destinations in the world and the region's first as per the MT Association. Dubai has all the factors that make it a favorable medical tourism destination—internationally accredited hospitals, a highly specialized talent-pool that speaks several languages, world-class infrastructure and hospitality, and a world-class airport and airline in Emirates. Presently there are 26 hospitals, almost 3,000 clinics, and more than 100 nationalities of healthcare professionals. In 2015 Dubai received 630,833 medical tourists, of which 47% were international, while the rest were inbound tourists from the other Emirates. We recently launched the first-of-its-kind website in the world that has all the relevant medical tourism information, including facilities, medical tourism packages, tickets, and hotel booking on a single portal. Tourists who book medical tourism packages via the website will also receive discounted rates for flight tickets and hotel bookings. With this website and the addition of several medical tourism packages that the private sector offers, we will see further growth of medical tourism in Dubai.