Living abroad
May 19, 2024
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Healthcare system for foreigners in the UAE: everything you need to know

The UAE healthcare system is ranked in the top‑50 in the world. Average life expectancy in the UAE is 80 years — only 4 years less than in Japan and Switzerland, which are world leaders in terms of life expectancy.

Let us discuss how the healthcare system in the UAE works, how much medical services cost and who needs health insurance.

Zlata Erlach
Zlata Erlach

Told all about healthcare in the UAE

Healthcare system in the UAE. Hospitals, costs, health insurance in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi

Healthcare system for foreigners in the UAE: everything you need to know

Level of healthcare in the UAE

The high level of healthcare in the UAE is one of the reasons foreigners choose to get treatment there — or even apply for the UAE residence permit.

The UAE government set a goal to make the country’s healthcare system one of the best in the world. To do that, they work in different directions:

  1. Building hospitals and fitting them with modern equipment.

  2. Making the medical treatment meet international standards.

  3. Adopting telehealth and artificial intelligence.

  4. Inviting qualified doctors from abroad.

  5. Attracting investments in healthcare through Freehold Zones and business incubators.

  6. Developing medical tourism.

Comfort and equipment of the UAE hospitals. When building hospitals, medical and rehabilitation centers, creators pay attention to comfort and interior design. Doctors use modern equipment for diagnostics and treatment.

For example, surgeries are conducted with the help of the Da Vinci Surgical System. It is a device used for performing minimally invasive surgeries with the highest precision possible. Surgeons also use Gamma Knife and CyberKnife: they perform radiation therapy for excising a tumor without making a cut.

International certificates. The UAE is a world leader in terms of the number of healthcare providers with an JCI international certificate. There are 208 certified hospitals. In comparison, Turkey and Israel, which are also famous for medical tourism, have only 34 and 9 hospitals respectively.

JCI standards help to organize well-coordinated work of the staff to minimize the risk of mistakes and ensure the safety of the patient.

Telehealth and artificial intelligence. UAE citizens and residents can get initial consultation remotely via the app. Foreign patients can consult with a doctor online before coming to the UAE.

The UAE implements artificial intelligence to handle the results of patient workup. A special algorithm keeps track of test results, ultrasound, tomography and other workups. It helps establish a diagnosis and reveal possible health problems even before a person can feel them.

Telehealth in the UAE

The website of medical tourism in Dubai has the section dedicated to telehealth

The UAE invites doctors from abroad to reduce waiting time and increase the quality of treatment.

Scarcity of qualified doctors is one of the problems of the UAE healthcare system. Out of each 10,000 residents in the country, there are only 28 doctors. In Europe the number is two times higher — 45 doctors out of 10,000 people in Switzerland, 55 — in Austria.

It is impossible to educate and prepare doctors quickly. This is why the UAE invites foreign specialists. Doctors who would like to work in the country can obtain 10-year residence visas that are an analogue of a residence permit.

Medical cities. The UAE government founded 4 medical cities to develop healthcare and attract investments. They are:

Medical city is a city quarter with hospitals, specialized clinics, medical and rehabilitation centers, hotels, wellness and spa centers.

On the medical cities websites you can choose a doctor, make an appointment and get an online consultation. Besides treatment and rehabilitation services, medical cities also have educational centers to prepare specialists for healthcare.

Why foreigners come to the UAE to get treatment

85% of foreigners come from Asian, African and Persian Gulf countries. Another 15% of patients come from the UK and CIS states. Foreigners choose the UAE for different reasons: because of conditions in hospitals, comparatively low cost of procedures, an opportunity to get qualified help or coincide treatment with holidays.

The most popular destinations for medical tourism that develop in the UAE are:

  • aesthetic surgery, dermatology and cosmetology;

  • orthopedics and sports medicine;

  • dentology;

  • reproductive medicine;

  • comprehensive diagnosis and preventive medical checkup.

Prices depend on the hospital and the level of comfort the patient chooses — just like in a hotel. Cost of treatment in the UAE is almost on the same level as in Turkey or Israel, but it offers a higher level of quality and comfort.

There are government programs for developing medical tourism in Abu-Dhabi and Dubai. Dubai authorities aspire to become one of the 10 biggest medical centers in the world.

Prices on surgeries in the UAE and other countries

Surgery

Approximate cost

Coronary artery bypass surgery

$16,350
UAE

$13,900
Turkey

$28,000
Israel

$123,000
USA

Angioplasty

$8,200
UAE

$4,800
Turkey

$7,500
Israel

$28,200
USA

Heart valve replacement

$20,500
UAE

$17,200
Turkey

$28,500
Israel

$170,000
USA

Hip joint replacement

$16,500
UAE


$13,900
Turkey


$36,000
Israel


$40,364
USA

IVF

$9,500
UAE

$5,200
Turkey

$5,500
Israel

$12,400
USA

Mammaplasty

$8,174
UAE

$4,500
Turkey

$3,800
Israel

$6,400
USA

Rhinoplasty

$7,700
UAE

$3,100
Turkey

$4,600
Israel

$6,500
USA

Dental implant with placement

$1,600
UAE

$1,100
Turkey

$1,200
Israel

$2,500
USA

How the UAE healthcare system works for citizens and foreign residents

Healthcare in the UAE is provided on a paid basis. The only exception is an emergency.

In case of the emergency the help will be provided for free, but the subsequent treatment must be paid. There is no unified system of medical insurance in the country: each emirate has its own legislations.

System of compulsory health insurance works in Abu-Dhabi and Dubai. In Abu-Dhabi it ia called Daman–Thiqa, in Dubai — Saada.

Employees usually get health insurance from their employers. In Abu-Dhabi, an employer also covers employees’ spouses and up to 3 underage children.

In Dubai, an employer covers an employee only, then the employee gets insurance for their children and other unemployed family members.

Entrepreneurs, self-employed and unemployed residents of Abu-Dhabi and Dubai buy their insurance themselves.

There is a fine for not having medical insurance. It is up to 500 AED ($136) for each month that you don’t have the insurance.

Minimum health insurance is 550 AED ($150) per year. It can be used by unemployed residents and those who earn less than 4000 AED ($1090) per month. It covers up to 150,000 AED ($40,872) per year. The insured person pays 20% of the medical treatment cost.

UAE residents can buy extended coverage to increase the sum of insurance, to extend a number of available medical services and specialists.

With health insurance, you can visit public and private clinics. A list of private medical organizations depends on the insurance company and type of insurance. Public hospitals are also paid, but they are covered by whichever health insurance.

To make an appointment in a public hospital, you need to register in a government system of healthcare, which issues a Health Card for you. Foreigners can get a Health Card in addition to the compulsory insurance. Having the Health Card is not obligatory. However, it gives benefits, such as reduced prices on treatment and a wider range of available hospitals and specialists.

To register a card, you need to visit the website of eServices of the Health Department. The Health Card is virtual and is connected to the resident’s ID. It costs 500 AED ($136) per year.

How to obtain a residence permit in the UAE. Residence permit in the UAE is called a residence visa. It gives a right to live, study, work, and run a business in the country. Residence visa for 1—10 years is given to buyers of real estate, entrepreneurs, highly-qualified specialists, freelancers, students, and retirees.

Investors obtain a 2 or 10 years residence visa by purchasing real estate from 750,000 AED ($204,000) to 2,000,000 AED ($545,000). Spouses and children of investors can also get a residence visa.

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

Individual cost calculation of the UAE Golden Visa

Dentists in the UAE

Dental services are not included in the basic insurance plan and are not always covered by the compulsory insurance. Emergency care for severe pain or inflammation will be provided in any case, but insurance may not cover the cost of cleaning or filling. The UAE has separate dental offices, clinics and dental departments at hospitals.

Dentology is one of the areas of medical tourism in the UAE. The clinics in Dubai and Abu Dhabi offer a full range of services: from diagnostics and whitening to veneering and implant placement.

Approximate prices on dental services in the UAE

Service

Price

Teeth whitening

$500

Tooth filling

$40—80
depending on the clinics and the difficulty of the procedure

Veneering

$370—1000
depending on the amount of veneers and the material; may include cost for living in the hotel

Children healthcare in the UAE

The UAE has a state child health program aimed at prevention of diseases. As part of the program, doctors diagnose newborns' genetic diseases and vaccinate children against dangerous infections for free. The authorities open children’s departments in hospitals and build specialized children’s clinics.

Vaccination of children in the United Arab Emirates is mandatory, vaccinations are free of charge from birth to five years of age. Children are vaccinated against tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, pneumonia. Girls are additionally vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.

To get vaccinated, you must contact the state clinic — a Public Healthcare Center. A Health Card is not required for vaccination.

If a child gets sick, you need to turn to a pediatrician. Pediatricians work in private and public clinics. You can choose any doctor, regardless of your place of residence. A consultation costs from $15 to $70.

Mental healthcare in the UAE

For a long time it hasn’t been common to address mental health problems in the UAE. However, in the past few years the situation has been improving, especially in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi.

Most of the clinics that provide mental healthcare are private ones. They offer help from such specialists as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers that work with adults and children.To find a proper specialist, you can check the Therapy Route website that shows doctors in specific areas and provide information on their competence.

Among the problems that you can address are anxiety, depression, other mental illnesses, grief, crises in a family or a couple. The average cost for one session with a psychologist is from $130 to $400.

Some of the clinics are:

Most health insurances don’t cover mental health services. However, Dubai authorities plan to include them in basic insurance in the future.

If you can’t reach a specialist at once but need emergency support, there are hotlines available.

  • the Estijaba helpline: 8001717;

  • hotline by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention: 045192519;

  • the UAE’s Mental health support line: 800 4673 (Hope).

How to get an appointment with a doctor in the UAE

An appointment with a doctor is booked online through a mobile application or website.

First, you need to visit a therapist. They could make a diagnosis and give you a prescription, send you to a workup or to another specialist. If you do an ultrasound, tomography or go to a specialist without a referral from a therapist, the insurance will not cover the costs.

A resident of the UAE can visit any doctor, regardless of their place of residence. The medical record and medical history are kept electronically — the patient can view the diagnosis and appointments through the public services application or on the website of the Ministry of Health eServices.

With the help of electronic medical records, artificial intelligence can timely detect negative changes in health status.

Healthcare system in the UAE. Access to test results in the app for Dubai residents

Dubai residents can check their test results or prescriptions, find a doctor or a clinic in the app called Dubai Now

Clinics in the UAE

There are 143 public and private hospitals in the UAE. The number of private hospitals is twice as high as public ones. Three quarters of medical institutions are certified in accordance with international JCI standards, which guarantees the high quality of treatment.

In the United Arab Emirates, there are multidisciplinary hospitals with different departments: from oncology to cosmetology to specialized ones, such as children hospitals or women health clinics. The staff speaks Arabic and English, in some clinics they also speak other languages.

Burjeel Hospital, Abu-Dhabi

Address: Al Najdah Street, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Website: burjeel.com

Departments: oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics and sports medicine, nephrology and urology, physiotherapy and rehabilitation, obstetrics and gynecology.

Burjeel Hospital is a multidisciplinary private hospital with JCI certificate and a partner of the Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism Program. The hospital has been operating since 2012. Doctors perform both complex surgeries and simple procedures, from cancer treatment with a Gamma Knife and organ transplants to dental treatment and cosmetic procedures.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Abu-Dhabi

Address: Island — 59 Hamouda Bin Ali Al Dhaheri St, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Website: clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae

Departments: cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, treatment of respiratory diseases.

Multidisciplinary hospital that is a part of an American network Cleveland Clinic. It has its own approach to the organization of treatment that focuses on the comfort and safety of the patient. Treatment is organized according to US standards. The hospital occupies a 25-storey building and can accept almost 500 people at the same time.

Danat Al Emarat for Women & Children, Abu-Dhabi

Address: 2nd St Rabdan, Bawabat Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Website: danatalemarat.ae

Departments: pediatrics and neonatology, obstetrics and gynecology, general and pediatric surgery, diagnostics of female diseases and mammology, endoscopic surgery.

Danat Al Emarat for Women & Children is established as a regional referral center for women with high risk pregnancies. The clinic has a special department that deals with the health of the fetus before birth and provides special care for weak newborns.

NMC Royal Hospital, Abu-Dhabi

Address: 16th St., Khalifa City — A, PO Box 35233, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Website: nmc.ae

Departments: cardiology, emergency medicine and intensive care, maternal and child health, gastroenterology, neurosurgery.

A multidisciplinary clinic with an international JCI certificate. NMC Royal Hospital’s approach to treatment is based on a short hospital stay, which saves the patient money. Doctors select home treatment and try to cure patients without surgeries if it’s possible.

Clemenceau Medical Center, Dubai

Address: Dubai Healthcare City Phase 2, Al Jaddaf, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: cmcdubai.ae

Departments: cardiology, emergency medicine and intensive care, maternal and child health, gastroenterology, neurosurgery.

Clemenceau is a luxury medical center for 100 patients. The doctors of the hospital are certified according to the standards of the United States, Great Britain or the European Union. The hospital has a center for robotic surgery: the Da Vinci robot allows doctors to perform surgeries accurately, which reduces the invasiveness of the operation and speeds up recovery.

Dr. Sulaiman AL Habib Hospital, Dubai

Address: Building 57, 55 & 51 umm hurair 2 Dubai, Umm Hurair 2 — Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: hmguae.com

Departments: cardiac surgeries, neurosurgery, orthopedics, gastroscopy and colonoscopy, gastric reduction, IVF, laser spinal surgery, general surgery, allergology and immunology, aesthetic surgery, dermatology and cosmetology, ophthalmology.

JCI-certified multidisciplinary hospital located in Dubai Medical City. Dr. Sulaiman AL Habib Hospital is also a partner of the Dubai Medical Tourism Program. The hospital provides both highly specialized and comprehensive care. The qualifications of doctors are confirmed by Western certificates.

Mediclinic City Hospital, Dubai

Address: Dubai Healthcare City, Building 35, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: mediclinic.ae

Departments: cardiology, radiology, obstetrics and gynecology, neonatology, traumatology and orthopedics, nuclear medicine, endocrinology.

The first multidisciplinary hospital that opened in 2008 in the Dubai Medical City.

Mediclinic City Hospital has its own diagnostic department: doctors conduct an in-depth examination of the patient in order to make or clarify a diagnosis and choose the right treatment strategy. Hospital surgeons perform organ transplantation and low-traumatic surgeries using the Da Vinci robotic complex.

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital (AACSH), Dubai

Address: Building 73, 26th Street, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: aacsh.com

Departments: cosmetology, weight loss programs, aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, general surgery, orthopedics, IVF and infertility treatment.

The clinic is located in the Dubai Medical City and is JCI certified. The AACSH administration calls it a "boutique clinic": wards resemble hotel rooms, the comfort level corresponds to a seven-star hotel.

American Hospital Dubai, Dubai

Address: Oud Metha, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: ahdubai.com

Departments: aesthetic surgery and cosmetology, oncology, cardiology, diabetes treatment, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopedics.

The hospital has been operating since 1996. American Hospital Dubai was the first in Dubai to use the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical Center for precise and low-traumatic surgeries.

The qualifications of the hospital’s doctors are confirmed by US standards certificates; the hospital itself is certified by JCI.

American Hospital Dubai is the only hospital outside the US that is accredited by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. The Institute has accredited ultrasound research programs: general ultrasound, abdominal ultrasound, breast ultrasound.

Emirates Hospital Jumeirah, Dubai

Address: Jumeirah Beach Rd, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Website: emirateshospital.ae

Departments: cardiology, embryology, general surgery, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, maxillofacial surgery, pediatrics.

A multidisciplinary hospital with an international JCI certificate. The hospital has rooms with a view of the Persian Gulf and the Dubai Canal: 1 class presidential suite, 3 VIP rooms and 5 luxury class rooms.

Emirates Hospital Jumeirah accepts 100 patients at once. The hospital has a modern diagnostic department with high-resolution MRI machines, a cardiac catheterization laboratory and equipment for diagnosing breast cancer. Surgical operations are carried out in six modern operating rooms.

Pros and cons of healthcare system in the UAE

Healthcare system in the UAE has many advantages. Some of them are:

  • accreditation by the Joint Commission International — the country has the largest number of JCI accredited clinics in the world;

  • implementation of modern technologies — the UAE clinics are equipped with robots and AI machines that help to perform surgeries in a less traumatizing way, sometimes even without cuts;

  • qualified doctors — the UAE invites the best specialists from all over the world;

  • convenience — it is possible to get help remotely through apps, check the prescriptions, make an appointment or find the best clinics;

  • high level of comfort — service in some clinics can be compared to the service in 5 or 7-star hotels;

  • a wide range of available doctors — you can get treatment from cardiologists, neurosurgeons, gastroenterologists, orthopedists, and many other professionals;

  • an opportunity to get help in English — by default the staff in clinics speak two languages: Arabic and English.

However, there are still some disadvantages. Among them are:

  • high costs — even though prices on surgeries are generally lower than in the US, they are still a bit higher than in Turkey or Israel, and the only care that you can get for free is emergency treatment;

  • a need to get medical insurance — in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi having an insurance is a must, you can get fined if you don’t have it;

  • long waiting period in public clinics — it might be less expensive than in private ones, but you have to wait way longer to book an appointment or get help.

In brief: healthcare system in the UAE

  1. Life expectancy in the UAE is 80 years: 3 years more than in the United States and only 4 years less than in Switzerland, the world leader in terms of life expectancy. This parameter is one of the key indicators of UAE medicine effectiveness.

  2. Dubai and Abu-Dhabi are two emirates that attract the most expats seeking medical services.

  3. The UAE has programs of medical tourism. The most popular areas are aesthetic surgery, dermatology, cosmetology, orthopedics and sports medicine, dentology, and reproductive medicine.

  4. The United Arab Emirates has the largest number of hospitals with the international JCI certificate in the world. It confirms the high quality of the work organization of medical institutions. There are also more private clinics than public ones.

  5. Medicine in the UAE is paid, except for emergency care. For citizens, health insurance is paid by the state.

  6. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have compulsory health insurance for foreign residents. As a rule, the employer pays insurance for employees, others buy the policy themselves. Cost of medical insurance starts from $150.

  7. Foreigners with a residence permit in the UAE apply for insurance in private clinics that have an agreement with the insurance company. To apply for insurance at a public hospital, you need to register with the public health system — to do so, link a virtual Health Card to your UAE resident ID. The Health Card costs $136 per year.

  8. If you don’t have health insurance in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi, you will be charged $136 for every month that you’re not insured.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How expensive is medicine in Dubai?

    The cost of medical procedures and surgeries in the United Arab Emirates is approximately the same as in Turkey and Israel. But hospitals in the UAE have a higher level of comfort: patients live in wards that have the service of five-star hotels.

  • Why do foreigners choose to get treatment in the UAE?

    Foreigners choose to get treatment in the UAE for various reasons: because of lower prices, a high level of comfort, the ability to combine treatment with holidays, and also because of the unavailability of high-quality high-tech medicine in their homeland.

    85% of foreign patients in the UAE come from Asia and the Persian Gulf countries. The rest of the patients are mainly from the UK and the CIS countries.

  • What are the advantages of the UAE clinics?

    Hospitals in the UAE are distinguished by a high quality of work organization, thay are also equipped with robotic surgical complexes, high-tech diagnostic and medical equipment. The quality of the organization in hospitals is confirmed by international JCI certificates — the United Arab Emirates is the world leader in the number of hospitals with this certificate.

    Comfort is another advantage of the UAE hospitals. The country used the experience of the tourism sector to build convenient clinics. The level of service in some clinics corresponds to the level of service in a seven-star hotel.

  • Is there compulsory health insurance and free healthcare in the UAE?

    Compulsory health insurance for residents exists in the two largest emirates: Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Insurance for citizens of the UAE is paid by the state. For foreign employees, insurance is provided by the employer. Entrepreneurs, self-employed and unemployed foreign residents of Abu Dhabi and Dubai buy insurance themselves.

    The basic health insurance costs $150 per year.

  • How to get an appointment at a public clinic in the UAE?

    To get an appointment with a doctor in a public clinic, a resident of the UAE must register with the public health system. The service is paid, it costs $136 per year. The services of public clinics in the UAE are paid, but are covered by compulsory insurance.

  • Where does the UAE rank in healthcare?

    According to the World Population Review the UAE healthcare system ranks in the top 50 among all countries. It is also the best one among the GCC countries.