(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Over 50 per cent of patients who have travelled abroad for treatment say that the UAE does not offer enough options for their medical conditions, according to a survey whose results were released on Tuesday.
Despite travelling abroad for treatment and costing the government millions of dirhams each year, one in five patients said they suffered from treatment side effects.
In 2011, the Dubai government spent Dh303,949 on 1,427 Emirati patients and their 1,797 escorts who sought treatment in countries including Germany, the UK, the USA, India, Thailand and others.
In terms of patient satisfaction, Singapore topped the destinations (100%), followed by Thailand (96.1%), the UK (94.6%), the USA (92.9%), India (90.3%), and Germany (87.1%).
Officials said they would study the reasons of the low level of satisfaction in Germany and India and find appropriate solutions and alternatives.
Others said they had opted to travel because of the long wait for consultation, issues related to privacy, unwanted outcomes suffered by some others and self as well as negative and improper behaviour of service providers in the UAE.
The survey also found that it was not only a lack of facilities that made people travel abroad but, in many cases, people were unaware of facilities in the UAE.
The KAP (knowledge, attitude and perception) survey was done by the Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Statistics Centre among Emirati and expatriate patients and their families who had travelled abroad for treatment between 2009 and 2012.
Officials from the DHA said that they would work on reducing the patient waiting times as well as expand medical services related to cancer, orthopaedics and spinal surgery to encourage people to seek treatment locally.
They, however, ruled out that price alone was a factor that attracted patients to travel abroad. "We do not only want to focus on price but offer quality treatment as well," said Dr Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA.
Other factors that draw people abroad for treatment include quality, doctors' credentials, advanced technology and success stories.
"We already have a primary healthcare system in place in government hospitals due to which patients do not see consultants directly and we want a similar system in the private sector. This will reduce costs for patients," she said. Dr Laila said that compulsory insurance will also make treatment in the UAE affordable.
Dr Awatif Abuhaliga, head of Policy, Strategy and Planning at the DHA, said a shorter waiting time to seek an appointment would reduce the number of people travelling abroad for treatment.