The healthcare system of the United Arab Emirates

How is the UAE health system structured? What are the government health institutions? What is the growth trend of the Healthcare sector?

Present and future

The healthcare system of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can be defined as a mixed public / private type. The private component is decidedly prevalent (75-80%) with a wide choice of hospitals, out-patient clinics, dental offices, pharmacies and other medical centers. The continuous progression in the development of Healthcare it is particularly concentrated in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but also in Al Ain, Sharjah and Ajman it is moving in this direction. In Dubai, the strong endorsement was given directly by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The Ruler has indeed clearly indicated for some time, that in the next few years the Emirate of Dubai will equip itself with the best innovative and modern healthcare system in the world, able to guarantee a very high quality of service, easy access to care for residents and all those who, coming from any part of the world, will choose to be treated in Dubai. In Abu Dhabi too, leadership is developing and significantly integrating the health system with the creation of new and ultra-modern cutting-edge centers.

Governance of Emirati Healthcare

The authorities governing Healthcare in the UAE are structured on a territorial basis and maintain a specific identity and decision-making autonomy in their jurisdiction.

To the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), which is based in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are headed by different departments such as the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) for Dubai, on Department of Health for Abu Dhabi (DOH / HAAD) and the Sharjah Health Authority. Each department independently provides licenses, both to health facilities and to professionals and which are valid only in the area of jurisdiction of the emirate of competence. Those licensed to practice in Dubai cannot work in Abu Dhabi and vice versa. For professionals, this license is strictly linked to the facility where they work and usually has an exclusive nature and cannot be exercised by other parties unless specifically authorized by the sponsor (NOC).
To access health services each resident must have at least basic insurance coverage, mandatory by law, which is provided for the employee by the employer to the employee.

Health facilities

If we consider the “young” age of this country, certainly a lot has been done. The first medical center dates back to 1943 at AL RAS in Dubai. In 1971 there were just 12 health centers including only 2 hospitals. Since then the trend has been dizzying, with a very strong growth especially since the 90s.
Health facilities currently present in the UAE. they are very many, for the most part private and concentrated above all in the major emirates. There are around 120 hospitals and thousands of clinics, diagnostic centers, day surgeries and pharmacies.

In 2015, the so-called UAE VISON 21 where, with regard to the health aspect, the intention was explicitly stated to create an HC System with the highest world standards in the United Arab Emirates, usable by all and with patient-centered assistance according to the motto "A DOCOR FOR EVERY CITIZEN".

The numbers of growth, in terms of health spending in the UAE, they are truly impressive: if in 2015 it was 12.7 billion, in 2020 it reached 18 billion EUR and a further annual growth of 4.5% is expected, which in 2025 means about 23.3 billion. Undoubtedly, these are interesting data for those who want to invest or work in this country. To achieve this ambitious goal, the Emirates have studied a massive project on the HC that they are gradually developing and implementing. For this purpose, two specific Master Plans have been created, one for Dubai called DUBAI CLINICAL SERVICES CAPACITY PLAN and the other for AD called HEALTHCARE CAPACITY MASTER PLAN, with a projection up to 2030/35.

In both these plans a careful analysis was made of the current healthcare supply and the expected future healthcare demand, including the expected peak of EXPO2020, then postponed to 2021. Using different indicators, such as the expected growth of the local resident and expat population and that tourism, analyzing the probable health needs in terms of access to the various health facilities for both acute and chronic care, and based on the diseases prevalent in the area, have hypothesized 3 possible growth scenarios, projecting them to 10-15 years. They then calculated the various gaps to be filled in each specific sector, quantifying it with a specific unit of measurement, called KEY PLANNING UNIT. The data progressively collected, with the use of various highly technological tools, they allow a constant monitoring of the growth process and a precise territorial mapping.

The role of the institutions international

Alongside all this there is also a partnership strategy with international institutions, some already well established and others in the process of being created.
This involvement of institutions of international prestige has the main purpose of creating a scenario that is certainly inviting, both for operators in the sector but also for investors. To make everything more attractive, the government authorities have set up a series of facilities and consulting services.

Golden Visa

One of the steps in this direction was to offer the GOLDEN VISA for 5 or 10 years not only to investors, but also to doctors with high professional profiles both in the clinical field but also in the research one. In this way, healthcare professionals would also have a better future perspective, with a longer and more appropriate time frame to develop their work, projects with a medium and long term career guarantee, rather than staying for a rather short period. , in a "hit and run" unfortunately still quite common.

Medical Turism

By creating a high-level healthcare environment, implementing research and training, the Emirates also count on developing MEDICAL TOURISM. They estimate to attract at least 500,000 patients annually over the next 10-15 years. In this way, at the same time, even the bleeding of patients who still go abroad for treatment, especially those for the most important pathologies, would be limited. For this purpose, two web portals called DUBAI HEALTH EXPERIENCE e ABU DHABI MEDICAL TOURISM, where the facilities concerned can propose themselves and adapt to the required policies, they can obtain all the accreditations and certifications necessary to welcome and treat patients from abroad with high standards of care.

Scientific research

Despite the young age of the Emirate country, there is a fairly developed network of university structures where research and technological innovation activities applied to medicine are developed.

University Centers

They are mostly concentrated in the emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman. Mainly the fields of investigation focus on the most frequent pathologies in the resident population, such as cardiovascular diseases and tumors that represent the first causes of death in the UAE, but also on obesity, diabetes, chronic and neuro-degenerative diseases. There is a lot of focus on preventive medicine with many awareness campaigns especially regarding eating habits and life style, where health checkups are offered and various screening campaigns such as those for breast, prostate and colon cancer.

Among the most productive universities in terms of scientific work is the United Arab Emirates University to Al Ain, and to follow come the University of Sharjah, the Gulf Medical University of Ajman, la MBRU of Dubai, la Khalifa Medical City University of Abu Dhabi and the Zayed University.

Private or semi-governmental research centers

CLEVELAND AD , the TAWAM HOSPITAL, the New York University AD, the Dubai Science Park, Al Jalila Foundation and the new Sheik Shakbout Medical City in partnership with the American Mayo Clinic. You can find all published scientific papers listed in a MoH open portal called Health Research Bank.

Technology and medicine

In terms of technological research applied to medicine, the UAE are essentially moving along the following tracks: Artificial intelligence (AI), Virtual reality, 3D printing, precision medicine, robotics and telemedicine.

Artificial intelligence

The government program forAI has as its motto BRING which means BUILDING A RESPONSIBLE AI NATION. Abu Dhabi in particular, it aims to become an international hub in this sector. For this purpose, the Artificial Intelligence LAB, with specific projects for the treatment and monitoring of the most common chronic diseases, but also for well-being and prevention. AI is also used in the analysis of all data collected by MALAFFi, a system that connects the various government health facilities, and that centralizes all patient data in a huge database for study and research purposes. There is also an AI university, the MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED UNIVERSITY OF AI with an extensive curriculum that includes machine learning, computer vision, and other related disciplines. Another AI research center is Khalifa University, where highly sophisticated monitoring and contact tracking systems with various dedicated Apps have been created for the Covid19 emergency.

In Dubai the project of a private research center on AI was recently launched, born from the collaboration between the AMERICAN HOSPITAL and CERNER.


Robotics it is developing mainly in the surgical field and in several hospitals they promote the Da Vinci. Robots are also used in the orthopedic field for the implantation of joint prostheses.

Precision medicine

Also gender medicine it is a major and rapidly developing pillar in the UAE. In Dubai there is DUBAI GENOMIX , where the genome mapping of Emirati citizens was carried out in a project called 10X, while in the United Arab Emirates University there is a center dedicated to genetic engineering and biotechnology. In Abu Dhabi, at NYUAD, there is the CENTER FOR GENOMICS and SYSTEM BIOLOGY as well as CLEVELAND AD, it has a center for research on genetics applied to well-being. The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center in 2020 was the first research center to acquire the license for the development of cell therapies and regenerative medicine. In addition to being the first certified center for bone marrow transplantation in the Gulf Area, it is doing important research on the potential applications of stem cells in Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis and in various other fields.

3D printing

The 3D PRINTING technology has also grown considerably in several years. In the health field, its applications in the prosthetic field, both of the limbs and of the teeth, are certainly very interesting.


Telemedicine. In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, both institutions and many hospitals have set up numerous tele-consultation portals.


MY HEALTH COACH is an app, still being tested, which allows patients to be followed daily by the doctor with advice especially on lifestyle, while COGNITIVE VIRTUAL ASSISTANT is another interactive portal, with a virtual assistant through which the patient can interact in real time. A system called CARDIOLOGIC to monitor the electrocardiographic alterations at a distance, of cardiological patients.


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