United Arab Emirates - Commercial Guide
Healthcare Services

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-09-12

Overview

As one of the most economically developed and diversified markets in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a strong healthcare infrastructure. The creation of a world-class healthcare sector is a top priority for the UAE and the sector has advanced and expanded significantly in recent years.

According to the World Health Organization, a third of adults in the UAE are obese, and one out of five people live with diabetes. As the incidences of lifestyle diseases increase, these populations, supported by relatively high levels of income, continue to demand greater quality healthcare. The government has focused on developing healthcare infrastructure to address this demand. 

Both federal and emirate-level governments regulate healthcare in the UAE. Federal-level legislation began in the 1970s and 1980s and there are pending legislative reform initiatives to facilitate the development of the healthcare industry. The UAE Government is liberalizing policies to attract foreign investments to improve the healthcare standard and boost the healthcare industry. 

The UAE’s health expenditure reached a value of $15.5 billion (AED 57.0 billion) in 2019. This includes healthcare expenditure from the seven emirates in addition to their contribution to the federal budget. There is an expectation for this figure to reach $16.2 billion (AED 59.4 billion) in 2020, a 4.2% yearly increase. The forecast is for spending is to rise to $20.5 billion (AED 75.3 billion) by 2024, which is a compound annual growth rate of 5.7%. A 10-year forecast to 2029 has health expenditure expected to rise to $29.2 billion (AED 107.1 billion). Overall healthcare spending is expected to account for 5.1% of the country's GDP by 2029, gradually increasing from 3.7% in 2019, according to Business Monitor International (BMI). 

The government commitment to the healthcare sector is one of the key drivers of growth within the UAE's healthcare market, particularly given that public spending accounts for over two thirds of overall healthcare expenditure. In the 2020 federal budget, a total of AED 61 billion was approved for public spending, up only 1.2% from AED 60.3 billion from the 2019 budget. While this does not constitute total government expenditure in the UAE, which derives from overall spending at the respective Emirate level, it is, nonetheless, a solid indicator of the UAE's fiscal stance. As such, the federal government has made fiscal consolidation a priority over the past two years, in part a result of slumping oil prices.

The government has come up with plans to increase the 2020-2021 government budget spending on the health sector, utilizing data monitoring tools for preemptive digital contact tracing and licensing of virtual medical service providers as a short-term measure. The government has also highlighted plans to build national capacities to fight future pandemics, which includes efforts to develop vaccines and medicines, digital immunization ID, and a new strategy focusing on supply chains. The Ministry of Health aims to develop the sector by focusing more on Health IT, including telemedicine and digital medicine.

In June 2015, the UAE government launched a health insurance program in Dubai to support nationals not covered under any other government funded health insurance scheme. This scheme benefited around 130,000 by offering healthcare at 23 private hospitals and more than 500 medical clinics in and around Dubai. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced in June 2016, that all Dubai residents should be covered by health insurance and this will be tied to the renewal and issuance of their UAE residence visas.

The UAE government wants to boost the number of medical tourists coming to the UAE in order to establish Dubai as a center of healthcare excellence in the region. The country has a robust transportation and logistics infrastructure and is geographically well positioned to be the center of the transportation network that links the economies of India and China to Europe and the United States. Dubai will host World Expo from October 2021 - March 2022 (delayed start due to the global Coronavirus outbreak), which will raise the UAE's appeal as a tourism destination, bringing benefits to the healthcare sector in its wake. Healthcare will remain a priority sector for the UAE government in light of the global COVID pandemic, and the UAE will continue to be an attractive location for establishing a regional distribution center for medical devices.

Medical Devices

Definition: Any product, including accessories, used in healthcare for diagnosis, prevention, monitoring or treatment of illness or handicap excluding drugs. Medical devices can be consumables, diagnostic imaging, dental products, orthopedic & prosthetic products, and patient aids. 

For medical devices, the UAE is an import driven market that is growing rapidly to keep pace with the country’s expanding healthcare infrastructure. The government and private healthcare sectors are investing heavily to provide countrywide healthcare solutions to residents, expats, and medical tourists. 

According to BMI, it is anticipated that the UAE medical device market will record moderate growth, supported by economic acceleration over the next two years. With rising healthcare costs, the government will increase private sector participation. Population growth, epidemiological advances, a growing medical tourism industry, healthcare infrastructure developments, an expanding health insurance, digital transformation, and new technologies will remain key market drivers. 

Regulations

All medical devices must be approved by MoHAP’s Drug Registration and Control Department. Imported medical devices will not be cleared by Customs unless a pre-approval for importation of the consignment is issued by MoHAP.

If the exporter company/manufacturer has no legal presence in the UAE, it will have to appoint a local representative to act on its behalf to register the devices. The local representative must be appointed by written contract stating the appointment of the local authorized representative by the company. The local representative should be licensed by MoHAP. 

Qualification of Registration of Medical Devices

The application to place a medical device in the UAE market must be made by the manufacturer or its authorized representative, who are required to maintain objective evidence on the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. 

MOHAP’s Registration and Drug Control Department accepts accreditation of conformity assessment bodies from the European Union, Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan, and Singapore. The registration or listing of a medical device is valid for five years, and registration renewals must be made at least 90 days before the expiry date of registration of the device.

Medical devices classifications include: Class I (low risk), Class II and III (medium risk), and Class IV (high risk). In addition, in-vitro diagnostic medical devices are classified under Class A (low individual risk and low public health risk), Class B (moderate individual risk and/or low public health risk), Class C (high individual risk and/or moderate public health risk), and Class D (high individual risk and high public health risk). 

Barriers

Some of barriers to entry in the Healthcare space include:

  • A small, young, and fragmented population.
  • The fragmentation of the healthcare system led by Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
  • A lack of federal health insurance.
  • A shortage of qualified healthcare personnel.
  • Containing cost.

Main Players

In 2019, the major players in the private healthcare market in the UAE include Al-Noor Medical Company, VPS Healthcare, Tumbay group, Al-Zahra Group, Belhoul Lifecare, Emirates Healthcare, Gulf Healthcare International, Gulf Medical Projects Company, Zulekha Hospital, Saudi German Hospital Group, GE Healthcare, and Aster DM Healthcare. 

Nearly 70% of more than 4,000 facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory services, clinics, polyclinics, and primary care centers have international accreditation, which will increase in the years to come.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Pharmaceuticals

As one-of-the-largest, most-developed economies in the Middle East, the UAE pharmaceutical market presents significant growth opportunities for multinational drug makers. The expansion of private healthcare coverage and the modernization of health infrastructure will drive prescription market growth. Stricter pricing controls, generic drug substitution, and an unfavorable demographic profile will act as headwinds in the coming years. 

Medical Equipment

The projected growth of UAE’s medical equipment market broadly mirrors that of other sectors. BMI estimated in 2015 that the medical device market would grow at a compound annual rate of 8.2% from $967 million in 2015 to $1.4 billion in 2021. Given that the UAE produces relatively little medical equipment domestically, this means significant business opportunities for international companies.

Healthcare Information Technology 

The UAE’s Healthcare Information Technology market is set to grow swiftly in coming years. The COVID 19 pandemic continues to create opportunities for the tele-health/medicine sector expansion, driven by remote healthcare services through technology platforms. MoH is working with an Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company PJSC (“Du”) to enhance options for tele based healthcare. These included “Virtual Hospital” where doctors and nurses provide remote care to patients using AI and smart devices.

Education and Research 

In order to meet its ever-increasing need for qualified medical professionals, the UAE has sought to grow its nascent medical education and training capacity. At the same time, it has endeavored to make the country a regional hub for medical research and events.

Opportunities

There are numerous hospital construction and renovation programs underway, as a result of both public and private investment. A growing medical tourism sector is boosting demand for modern facilities with the latest medical equipment, as there is competition between the seven Emirates to attract medical tourism. 

MOHAP continues its plans to modernize hospitals in the country with the latest technology aimed at preventing and treating the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. The Dubai Health Authority will continue to align medical technology to smart city planning and implementation efforts.

The UAE announced a new retirement visa scheme. This will result in older expats remaining in the country, which will benefit the medical sector, particularly in the areas of at-home medical care, elder care, speech therapy, post–surgical nursing care & rehabilitation, as well as telemedicine.

Resources

Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Arab Health
Date: February 1-4 2021
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai  


Med Lab
Date: February 8-11, 2021
Venue: Dubai World Trade Center, Dubai

 

DUPHAT
Date: March 9-11 2021
Venue: Dubai International Convention Center

Key Websites

UAE-Ministry of Trade
Ministry of Health
Health Authority Abu Dhabi
Dubai Health Authority
Gulf News
Dubai Healthcare City (Free Zone)
Abu Dhabi Health Authority
Abu Dhabi Health Service Company
Sharjah Heath Care City
Tejari Solution
BMI
Emirates Medical Association
Dubai Autism Center
Emirates Autism Center