Treatment destinations and visit frequencies for patients seeking medical treatment overseas from the United Arab Emirates: Results from Dubai Health Authority reporting during 2009-2016

Wafa K. Alnakhi, Jodi B. Segal, Kevin D. Frick, Altijani Hussin, Saifuddin Ahmed, Laura Morlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Each year, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) spends millions of dollars to cover the costs of United Arab Emirates (UAE) nationals seeking healthcare overseas. Patients may travel overseas to seek an array of treatments. It is important to analyze the number of trips and treatment destinations for patients travelling overseas to provide baseline information for the DHA to improve polices and strategies related to overseas treatment for UAE nationals. Methods: Administrative data were obtained from the DHA for UAE nationals who sought medical treatment overseas during 2009-2016. We examined the number of trips and treatment destinations by medical specialty, age, gender, years of travel and travel seasons. Multinomial logistic and negative binomial regression models were used to assess the relationships of the treatment destinations and number of trips, respectively, with the key variables of interest. Results: The study included data from 6557 UAE nationals. The top three treatment destinations were Germany (46%), the UK (19%) and Thailand (14%). The most common medical specialties were orthopedic surgery (13%), oncology (13%) and neurosurgery (10%). Oncology had the highest expected number of trips adjusted for a number of covariates (IRR 1.34, 95% CI: 1.24-1.44). Regarding destination variation, patients had a lower relative risk ratio of seeking healthcare in Germany in the winter (RRR 0.68, 95% CI: 0.57-0.80). Endocrinology was the most common medical specialty sought in the UK (RRR 3.36, 95% CI: 2.01-5.60). Conclusions: This is the first study to systematically examine the current practice of medical treatment overseas among UAE nationals. The results demonstrate that treatment destinations, medical specialties for which treatment was sought, age, gender and travel season are significant factors in understanding overseas travel for medical care. The study can guide the DHA in collecting more data for further research that may lead to policy-relevant information about sending patients to the best-quality treatment choices at an optimal cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalTropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2 2019



  • Medical travel
  • Overseas treatment
  • Public health
  • Travel medicine
  • United Arab Emirates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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