Cost of health care a concern, says UAE study
Although residents in the capital, Dubai and Sharjah are happy with the provision of health care, most take umbrage over the costs – a survey has revealed.
Quality of Service: Patients Perspective UAE, commissioned by Ethos Integrated Solutions, interviewed more than 1,000 residents aged between 18 and 56, across the three emirates.
Satisfaction levels were measured based on eight healthcare provisions. These ranged from the perceived skill level and competency of staff, doctor-patient information exchanges, overall quality of treatment and healthcare costs.
“The findings make for compelling reading for all involved in healthcare delivery,” said Robert Keay, founder and chief executive of Ethos.
“Patient experience is playing an increasingly important role in healthcare reforms and healthcare delivery generally. Added to the importance of patient satisfaction, figures from the World Health Organisation reveal that the per capita spend on healthcare in the UAE reached US$1,569 (Dh5,763) in 2013, ranking the country in the top 50 countries globally.
“Given plans by Dubai in particular to move into the realm of medical tourism, it is important to understand how customer experience, in this case patient experience, is playing out across healthcare platforms.
“In the UAE there is no universally adopted measure of national patient satisfaction for health care. Given this lack of information and the importance of healthcare economically, we commissioned the survey to assess the level of patient experience in terms of overall healthcare provision and, more specifically, doctors’ quality of service and consistency in advice.”
Last month, The National reported that every week, a doctor in the Northern Emirates was warned about malpractice or negligence after a complaint from their patients or peers. The information was revealed by the Ministry of Health. Complaints of medical malpractice or negligence are handled by Health Authority Abu Dhabi and Dubai Health Authority in their respective emirates.
Residents responded positively when asked about overall provision of health care, with 72.7 per cent saying they were satisfied. The cost, however, came in with the lowest rating, at 62.9 per cent.
Satisfaction levels were noticeably different from emirate to emirate, Mr Keay said.
“There was, however, considerable disparity in the rankings given by residents of the three surveyed emirates, with Abu Dhabi ranking the highest,” he said.
The quality of services offered by doctors came in at 69.5 per cent, with 44 per cent of respondents saying they nevertheless sought second opinions.
Respondents in Sharjah, Emiratis in particular, were the most likely to recommend doctors to friends and family.
Despite the satisfaction levels, almost a quarter of Emiratis and expatriates said they preferred to seek treatment abroad. Western expatriates, followed by Asian expatriates, were most likely to opt for treatment outside the UAE.
“Seven key healthcare destinations were named as the preferred source of treatment, depending on nationality, with better doctors, service, lower cost, specialised diagnosis facilities, stricter government standards and ability to communicate cited as some of the reasons for going abroad,” Mr Keay said.
In January, a separate survey, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that expatriates throughout the country would rather seek medical treatment abroad if they became seriously ill, despite an increasing amount of trust in the UAE’s healthcare system.
Respondents to the Ethos survey also gave their opinion on ways to improve healthcare in the UAE.
“These [opinions] are not only focused on cost reduction but improvements to medical insurance, facilities, patient care, quality of doctors, healthcare management and education,” Mr Keay said.