Arab Health: All bark and no bite?

Once a year, over 80,000 healthcare operators, providers and experts gather at Dubai’s World Trade Centre for four days of Arab Health. According to suppliers, it’s the event at which payors and providers begin to think about what they might like to purchase and where they might consider expanding.

“It’s almost like the beginning of the healthcare financial year,” says one medtech salesman. “Many groups and institutions set their budgets based on what they’ve seen and heard here. That then trickles down to how healthcare is delivered for the next 12 months.” So some say that the exposition is transformative.

Yet on the conference floor, it feels like there is a real gulf between how the payors want to transform healthcare and what providers are able to offer. Whole pavilions were dedicated to digital health, wellness and innovation, but operators said that the UAE does not yet have an adequate reimbursement model for wellness and its current telehealth law is contradictory.

Policy makers also spoke about the need to grow outpatient and primary care networks to lower the costs to the country’s insurers and provide more suitable care. Operators on the ground – especially the smaller hospitals – told HBI that they were quite content with their acute care bed model and had no plans to diversify. Other groups are making ground, as we hear that 70% of Mediclinic’s revenue in Abu Dhabi comes from its outpatient network and NMC is quickly acquiring small hospitals and clinics.

Few, however, are convinced that the physical presence of a clinic is enough to stop high patient flows to hospitals. Occupancy is low across the UAE emirates, as seen in our chart of the week, so everybody is competing for patients.

Arab Health appears as a Goliath of the healthcare world: 4k exhibitors, 80k delegates, 1.3m square feet, grand ideas, innovation, etc, etc, etc. But that’s all a bit of an illusion. In reality, the expo is more like David, trying to force the stubborn and solid healthcare industry into submission and we’re not sure if it will succeed.

 

 

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Rachel Lewis or call 0207 183 3779.