After launching Gulf’s largest medical simulation centre and passing a new law for business set-up, Dubai Healthcare City has now set its sights on the exciting development of its Phase 2 expansion into wellness.
The initiative will reinforce the freezone’s position as a leading force in the healthcare industry – both regionally and globally. We speak to Dr. Ramadan AlBlooshi, CEO of Dubai Healthcare City Authority – Regulatory (DHCR).
As the person at the helm of Dubai Healthcare City’s regulatory arm – what is your topmost goal?
To be able to deliver the founding vision of Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). Dubai Healthcare City Authority – Regulatory (DHCR), as the regulatory arm, is responsible for the licensure of all healthcare professionals and healthcare operators and setting and maintaining international best practice in healthcare delivery and patient care within the freezone. We regulate both education and investment sectors in the freezone and, as best practice, we study global trends and benchmark healthcare systems around the world. Through new regulations, we strengthen DHCC’s value to ensure continuous growth and deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Earlier this year, there was a new regulation announced to encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to set up base in the freezone. Can you tell us a little more about this? What was the strategic objective behind this announcement?
Previously, a company under the Service Provider Category could only set up in DHCC if first, the parent company or branch is registered in the UAE; second, the company is under the same ownership; and third, the company has been operating in a similar service category for a minimum of two years. Under the provision of our new regulation, companies without a branch in the UAE can set up in DHCC. The motivation behind this regulation was to connect people and dissolve geographical barriers. The new regulation caters to short-term needs of DHCC’s Phase 1 as well as the long-term requirements of the freezone’s wellness expansion in Phase 2, Al Jaddaf. I should also add that we continuously update our procedures. We hope to introduce several other initiatives to improve the ease of doing business for investors and business owners.
How has this initiative been received by the investor and business community within the country?
The regulation has been received well with growing interest from restaurants and convenience stores. As of June 2016, there are close to 200 non-clinical facilities operating in DHCC, of which a third are service providers. The leading non-clinical services are restaurants, convenience stores and beauty salons. I think we’ve made a fantastic head start, but still have a long road ahead of us.
From the patient’s point of view, what makes Dubai attractive for medical tourism?
That’s a great question. My team and I spend a lot of time understanding the psyche of the patient. What kind of information does a patient need when choosing a doctor? Is there a preferred language of communication? Is the patient travelling alone or with family? What kind of support facilities need to be provided? Does the patient require special transportation from the airport to the hospital? Every detail is taken into consideration when we plan our initiatives and it is this holistic approach that sets us apart. Moreover, we continue to raise the bar with our regulatory standards, which ultimately reflects in the quality of care. In addition to this, there are several other factors too that strengthen our position as a leading hub for medical tourism including Dubai’s strategic location where the majority of the world’s countries are within four to eight hours flying-time, its world-class infrastructure and the required elements of innovation, safety and regulatory environment.
What are some other key initiatives being rolled out of DHCC?
As you are aware, we are now working towards the development of Phase 2 of DHCC and the focus is on overall wellness. We want to offer an end-to-end experience to every patient that visits DHCC. This means going beyond their medical needs and introducing elements such as jogging tracks, green areas, rehabilitation centres, hotels, recreation centres and so on. In addition, we are catering to the needs of the older generation, women and children. Phase 2 in Al Jaddaf will look to strengthen the health and wellness ecosystem within DHCC. At the same time, we are working towards creating an automated system for patients and doctors which eliminates the need for repetitive paperwork. As a doctor, not only can I register my details on the network, but I can easily access patient information as well. Patients, on the other hand, can browse through profiles of doctors, gain information about different medical procedures and much more. Think of it as a one-stop-shop window with one username and password – enabling seamless communication between stakeholders involved.
Is finding and nurturing talent on top of your agenda?
Absolutely! We’ve invested in what I like to call ‘the circle of education’, which is a link between medical universities, research centres and university hospitals. Let me explain how this fits into DHCC. Firstly, we have the prestigious Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences within Dubai Healthcare City that provides excellent graduate and postgraduate programmes in modern medicine and has a comprehensive raft of courses on offer. We have the Swiss International Scientific School Dubai, offering International Baccalaureate (IB) and Swiss Matura curricula. Working closely with these universities are research centres, where graduates and other medical professionals from around the world can come to pursue medical research. Finally, we will also have a university hospital that will allow medical students to practice and gain practical experience. We have the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Centre – one of the most renowned facilities in the Gulf, which comprises high-fidelity patient simulators to help health professionals continue to develop their technical and non-technical skills. Since its opening in November 2012, the KHMSC has trained more than 6,300 healthcare professionals. I strongly believe that there is no substitute for education and training to drive healthcare delivery, nurture talent and fast track innovation. DHCR ensures regulatory compliance for medical education events, such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Continuing Medical Education (CME).
What, according to you, are the biggest challenges the healthcare industry is currently faced with?
Raising awareness, especially for prevalent diseases, is much needed. There is a growing need for sub-specialties, such as the first dedicated children’s hospital (Al Jalila Specialty Children’s Hospital), and encouraging providers to set up unique offerings, such as a dedicated ICU hospital. Training healthcare professionals and ensuring they are up-to-date with their training is equally important. In DHCC, we ensure that they also have basic life support training (pre-requisite) at the time of licence application. The region is making appreciable progress in its efforts to improve healthcare access and quality. And yet pressure on capacity is increasing; closing the gap remains a top challenge in the region.
DHCC has always been seen as an innovator in the healthcare space. How are you leading the way in terms of digitisation?
Technology is a critical factor for any sector, and staying ahead of the curve is no longer a matter of choice, it is a necessity. A few examples of how digitisation is playing a vital role within DHCC include: digital hospitals with the features such as paperless hospital model; digital file with biometrics and ID; use of Google Glass; Hospital Information System (HIS) that feeds patient data; state-of-the-art CT and MRI facilities to help make the patient calmer. In some DHCC-based clinical facilities, patients can choose from a variety of themes pre-loaded to be shown on a screen in the ceiling and sound in all four corners of the room; patient can also provide the radiographers with their smartphone to play any of their own music.
If you had to identify three top trends that will disrupt the future of healthcare, what would they be?
Wearable technology, simulation in medicine and robotics.
Finally, what appeals to you most about working within the healthcare industry?
At the onset of my career, I was essentially a physician managing people. Over time, however, I realised that I was very inquisitive about the system – the nuts and bolts of the sector – and that is what led me to take on a more strategic role. What’s more exciting is that the UAE is at the forefront of healthcare and wellness; we are making great advances in the field and it’s truly exhilarating to be part of this journey. Working with DHCC gives me a platform to launch and develop new initiatives for the betterment of people. What can be better than that?
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Rushika Bhatia Editor
Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.