Inbound and outbound medical tourism is growing fast in the GCC region with Middle Eastern patients traveling within and outside the GCC while patients from around the world seek care in high profile destinations such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While some healthcare authorities in the GCC are sending patients abroad for care due to overburdened healthcare systems, there is a growing trend among GCC governments to promote their medical and wellness offering as a way to increase tourism, generate income and employment and boost local healthcare quality.
However, the potential impact on health systems, particularly in terms of equity in access and availability for local patients, is still unclear. Shifting demographics in the Middle East, particularly among the growing elderly population, is increasing the need for more specialized medical services. The rising incidence of chronic conditions is also fueling demand for more and better health services.