Health insurance has come a long way in Dubai since its inception. What are the new updates?
We have achieved our goal of ensuring essential health coverage for all Dubai visa holders; almost 99% of the population now has access to mandatory health insurance. As the market matures, we want to continue to enhance benefits for every insured member, add preventive screening programs, encourage employers to look beyond insurance for their employees' wellness, and provide an environment that supports the growth and maturity of the health insurance sector. In 2013, only 1.8 million people in Dubai were insured. Today, more than 4.9 million people are. In Dubai, we have 47 insurance companies licensed by DHA, 12 of which are participating insurers that provide policies for low-income workers. According to our e-claims data from January-September 2019, the gross claims are worth AED12.2 billion, and we have 7,752 healthcare providers, 75-plus insurance companies and third-party administrators, and over 12,280 insurance products.
What initiatives have been introduced to enhance the benefits received by health insurance holders?
In 2020, we introduced screening and treatment for three types of cancers under the Basmah initiative. We also introduced screening and treatment for hepatitis C. Both these programs aim to benefit lower salaried workers, as the programs are available for Essential Benefit Plan (EBP) holders. This initiative is in line with WHO's goal to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. Additionally, to promote early screening and management of diseases, we have added diabetes, heart disease, newborn, and developmental screenings as part of the mandatory health insurance cover. This ensures that we detect diseases early on, leading to better treatment outcomes, fewer complications, and reducing care costs. We want to focus on building an enhanced health insurance system and the provision of specialized services; on the other, while raising public health awareness, particularly about prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCD). We want to encourage employers to create a work culture that promotes healthy habits, so that together we create a culture of preventive healthcare.
How will two trends, the change in demographics and accelerating technological innovation, intersect to change the healthcare sector and its investment landscape?
Technology has the power to transform healthcare, and this is no different in the health investment space. The challenge for health systems and technology providers is to design their technology to facilitate seamless integration into clinical workflows. This is the direction they are moving toward to allow technology and advanced analytics to support clinical care pathways, hospital efficiency, and reduce the workflow of health professionals and hospital management. Investment in healthcare will completely adapt to meet changing technologies and cater to changing demographics as well. Investment in robotic surgeries and the training of robotic surgeons is one such area.
Telemedicine seems to be a major area of focus in Dubai's healthcare landscape. Can you tell us about your telehealth initiatives?
A shift from the tradition methods of receiving care includes the use of smart technology such as telemedicine. It can support around-the-clock consultations and help in providing both specialized care and second opinions with specialists from around the globe, as well as provide initial consultation in key areas, saving patients time and providing enhanced convenience. In December 2019, we launched the Doctor for Every Citizen initiative to further our drive toward the use of latest digital technology. The 24/7 telehealth consultation program is currently available for UAE nationals for the family medicine specialty. In the first phase, it will include consultation for diabetes, allergies, hypertension, and dermatological issues, as these are the most common health concerns. In the future, more specialized services will be added. While it does not include emergency care, it does include initial diagnosis, referral, e-prescriptions for certain conditions, and even requests for lab tests registered online through the DHA's electronic patient medical record system for added convenience.