What new developments are we seeing in the healthcare sector in the UAE today?
MURRAY: We are seeing a variety of new players come to the market. There are hospitals that were being contemplated, or hospitals that had stopped construction during the downturn, that are now starting to be completed or plans are being made to complete them. The other major thing we are seeing right now is the introduction of more insurance companies into this region. That is a good thing in one way; hopefully it will give more coverage to people, it is also a challenge for the providers trying to figure out all the various rules that each of the companies brings to the table. It is nothing we didn't see in the United States, but it is something that is new for this part of the world. We are commissioning our radiation oncology program and that will complete our cancer program here at the American Hospital. This has been a significant investment in developing radiation oncology and the amount of Dirham invested in this has been significant between variant linear accelerator, the therapy plan, and also our staff. We had to bring together a multinational staff to provide this care. It’s not plug and play; it’s a major medical component for us and this will augment our oncology program, which is both adult and pediatric. We are also in the process of completing a breast diagnostic/breast care center as well.
To what extent is the government investing in healthcare in the UAE?
MURRAY: The government has already made significant investments in healthcare. Take a look at the hospitals they have and the trauma center at Rashid Hospital. I think the government is now taking an appropriate look at the cost of the provision of care for the people here in Dubai. There is a lot of processes that they have to go through, but I think it is appropriate that they do so.
How would you describe the level of governance of the healthcare sector?
MURRAY: We see the folks at Dubai Health Authority taking very proactive and positive steps. Looking at things like primary source verification for all practitioners, they want to make sure that people are who they say they are and that they have the proper credentials. Recently, we have had to go through a licensing project for a new radiation oncology service, and so far, we have had good cooperation from both the national and local authorities.
To what extent do you see equal and adequate care across the emirates?
MURRAY: Most of my experience here is in Dubai. What I can see more than anything else is from the insurance aspect. In Abu Dhabi, they are using Daman as their carrier, and I believe it will move throughout the emirates and the nation. This is important given the fact that people do travel, they work in one emirate and may live in another. It is important that we have a coordination of care and payment across the entire nation.
Are we in a structural deficit in healthcare in the UAE today?
MURRAY: Clearly we need more physicians here in a variety of specialties. This is a growing part of the world and people come here for healthcare from other countries. There is always room for more excellent physicians and other healthcare professionals that work alongside those physicians. The issue as far as beds are concerned depends on the utilization of those beds. In the United States, we have a very short length of stay as far as care is concerned. People are moved rather quickly through the acute care setting and into a long-term setting or they go home. They go to rehab facilities if they had joint replacement etc. Here, they stay in the acute care hospital. I think the nature of the practice of medicine here is a little bit behind what we see in the United States. Utilization of the in-patient facility is discouraged in the United States. It may be because they are using more Western approaches to insurance now, we may see that happen here as well. If that does happen, we could have an over supply of beds rather quickly. At this point in time, we will just have to wait and see.
We are seeing a variety of new players come to the market. There are hospitals that were being contemplated, or hospitals that had stopped construction during the downturn, that are now starting to be completed or plans are being made to complete them. The other major thing we are seeing right now is the introduction of more insurance companies into this region.
How would you describe the level of competition among private healthcare providers in the UAE?
MURRAY: I think we are probably all going after the same market. I think competition is good. I think that makes us want to do a better job and to add more value for the amount of money people are paying for their healthcare.
What is the level of care available in the UAE today?
MURRAY: Our organization is designed and organized exactly like a hospital you would find in the United States; the committee structure etc. are exactly the same. The credentialing that each and everyone of our physicians go through is just like you would see in America. The American Hospital was the first hospital in the Middle East to receive accreditation from the Joint Committee International. We are very proud of that and consider it to be the gold standard; and frankly, it is the gold standard in the United States as well. Our laboratories are approved by the College of American Pathologists as well. These provide us targets to shoot for because at times we don’t like to just have accreditation, we like to exceed any of the various accrediting bodies and most of the time we are able to do so. This also requires a significant investment on our part to make sure that we have the educational programs, equipment, quality insurance, etc. put into place so that performance can improve each and every day here at the American Hospital.