Dubai Medical Zone

Stephan Baker, General Manager of Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib medical center Apart from first world service! I think that’s one of the main expectations everyone is expecting world class medical service. To be licensed as a Doctor in the UAE you have to reach a certain and that standard is raised in the Medical City. Because it is a free zone it has its own regulations which in my opinion are more stringent that those of the rest of the country.

I would like to start by asking about the health sector in general in GCC countries. What is your frank assessment of where the health sector is standing in the world ranking?

I think at the moment especially in the UAE the hospital sector is pretty new, only about 5 to 7 years old if you measure it against the rest of the world’s countries. It started out with having mainly government healthcare and then slowly after time we had private healthcare coming in and that was basically because of what was offered in government hospitals as oppose to what you can find in private hospitals. In the government department you have to deal with the masses which is always a big challenge, whereas in the private sector you are able to segment your market and target certain patients and so you have fewer patients. This gives the ability to bring in world class doctors. Over the last 5 to 7 years there has been a big growth in the privatized sector, you can see it in Abu Dhabi the government are outsourcing most of the government hospitals. This raises the standards of healthcare as private hospitals are usually better equipped. The government is also working on accreditation of hospitals over the country, this again raises the standards rapidly.

These are the private hospitals in the private sector what about the public services? Are the low or middle income groups going to suffer from this change?

I think it depends on the emirate, if you take Abu Dhabi for example you can see that it has compulsory medical insurance where that is not yet in place in Dubai. They have gone to make sure everyone has at least the minimum cover in healthcare, this gives every employee access to government or private healthcare anywhere in the emirate. Dubai will move towards the same direction. This has no bearing on the income group, but what does is the level of insurance you want, maybe with different cover you can gain access to more prestigious medical facilities. I don’t think it’s going to have a negative impact on middle and low income residents, if anything it will provide medical cover for everyone.

Dubai healthcare city, the worlds’ first healthcare zone is basically a medical community which concentrates on acute care services and occupies an area of 4.1 million sq. ft. how does the Al Habib Medical Centre fit into Dubai Healthcare City?

At the moment we are one of the biggest centres in Healthcare City, there are lots of clinics opening up there and a lot more to come. We are serving about 4000 patients a month and we have just started, we opened august last year. Our medical centre opened in Dubai Healthcare City to not only provide services to local patients but also to bring all the services that may be needed to the region and to act as an academic medical centre too. When you put all those ideas together you can see Sheikh Mohammed’s vision of how he wants to raise the standards in healthcare and not only to attract local patients but patients from all over the region.

With all this said, what can we expect from the Medical City?

Apart from first world service! I think that’s one of the main expectations everyone is expecting world class medical service. To be licensed as a Doctor in the UAE you have to reach a certain and that standard is raised in the Medical City. Because it is a free zone it has its own regulations which in my opinion are more stringent that those of the rest of the country.

Dr. Sulaimen Al Habib Medical Centre opening heralds a new era of medical care across the region. Can you tell us more about the specialty of this centre, what are the competitive advantages you have?

I think the first one is that we focus on heart patients, we’re not a hospital we only deal with heart patients. We don’t have to cover all sectors of medical care and other challenges that come with operating a hospital. We can concentrate on bringing in world class doctors and high technology equipment to use state of the art methods with our patients. We bring the most advanced technologies available on the market to our patients and it benefits them greatly, those are the some of the main features for the patient. It’s something that they probably will never have seen before in the UAE and we keep about 99% of our patients.

When you look at the centre from a patients perspective what can one experience here?

I think it’s the one-stop shop, and I don’t like using this term but it’s the full spectrum of treatment. So if a patient comes in and needs treatment even in a different specialty he can find it all here and it’s all very accessible. We don’t overwork our doctors, so they are ready at any given time to see a patient, the patients don’t have to wait to see any certain doctor. The patients leave with a report with all the information in it all together, they don’t have to come back which is often the case.

The centre opened one year ago, how do you assess the first year of operation?

I think having opened in august last year there were certain expectations and I think we have exceeded them. We’ve grown a lot quicker than we thought we would grow and we’ve had to bring in a lot more doctors to the centre, we now have close to 40 doctors employed and we have a capacity of about 80 doctors. So within the first year we’ve come to filling close to half of the capacity of the centre and that just shows what the need is in Dubai for specialist clinics like ours.

Growing rapidly and maintaining a certain level of standards must be a challenge, how do you keep it up?

It is, and within the UAE you’ve got a very multi cultural society; with each nationality there comes different challenges. We’ve found that we have to educate not just our Doctors but also our other staff on what these differences are so we can interact with our patients at a level which is respectful to all nationalities. With each patient coming through we have to evaluate our performance which is a constant challenge.

The patients that you receive, who are they?

There is a large proportion of Emiratis, lots of patients from Arab countries: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. At the moment these are the main nationalities that we receive but as we hire more doctors from different backgrounds and areas we can welcome a broader range of patients. People often feel comfortable talking to a doctor of their own cultural background.

The establishment of the Medical centre does not only aim to provide healthcare in Dubai and the UAE but also aims to make Dubai the Healthcare hub for the entire Middle East. How do you plan to promote Dubai as a healthcare destination?

I think it’s in our vision and the vision of Sheikh Mohammed to create healthcare for Dubai that at the same time attracts people in the region. Being a Saudi owned company we already have a big foothold in the Saudi market and we can bring patients from Saudi to the UAE to receive treatment. With other links we have, we are able to provide our services to a very wide range of people in a large area, us being located in the Dubai healthcare city and the creation of the city itself will allow Dubai to become a regional hub for healthcare services. Dubai, being a transit city where people will pass through weather it’s to Europe, America or Asia, those who need health services will be attracted to Dubai as a healthcare hub as it’s natural for them to pass by on their travels.

Do you think that this centre may one day have market share in places like London, Paris or the USA?

I think it’s a possibility; it’s an area that we would look into. We are looking to cover the UAE now, the Middle East in the future and when that market reaches saturation then we will carry on expanding. It will be a challenge seeing as most of the first world countries already provide world class healthcare so it would be hard to draw customers from that market here. What we can do, is promote the healthcare facilities here alongside the leisure attractions to draw people here as health tourism. They can come out here and couple the surgery they need along with a nice holiday.

Rather than trying to start a specialist service itself starting from scratch, HMC decided on the partnership approach. What are HMCs ideas on partnerships and how do you create these ties?

At the moment we have several partnerships, we work with people who are big players and have state of the art technology. We have a partnership with General Electric, so that joint venture helps with our technology department. We’ve done the same with French Laboratory as they offer the best when it comes to the labs. We also work with the University of Hamburg for example if our Doctor needs a second opinion on something he can just send the scan results to the University of Hamburg and ask for an opinion on that. This is how we’ve started and progressed adding more and more companies. Actually, in 2 weeks we’re heading to London to make a deal with a world class dermatology centre who have links all around the world.

You mentioned that you are using international marketing to attract patients from all over the world, can you comment on how you structure your marketing?

Marketing in healthcare generally has been very conservative, it’s never been the strongpoint of healthcare and over the last 2 years it has changed quite dramatically. It is now a very big area that our company needs to be involved in, not only in the UAE but abroad too. We have a marketing team on site that are trying to create a brand similar to the one we have in Saudi that can be recognized as a quality healthcare clinic. Which is an ongoing progress.

Where would you like to take your brand? What would you like it to be associated with?

It is and always will be associated with high quality healthcare. That is always what you looks for in branding a product, for it to be associated with high quality and that is what our clinic is all about: delivering a high quality service to all patients.

Can you maybe comment on your expansion plans?

The company is expanding at a rapid rate not only within Saudi Arabia but outside too, in other investments in the region. Our clinic in Dubai has seen great growth already and will see further growth next year; we hope to expand within the UAE too: Jabal Ali, Al Ain. We are also looking into London and other medical cities similar to the one where we are located in Dubai.

To finalize, is there any message you would like to give our viewers?

I think what you should take away from us is that we would like you to experience the service that we can provide here; our level of services is very high and we hope to keep up to that standard.

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