In my application for the Exchange, the one place that I wrote about wanting to visit was Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), and thankfully, this stop was added to our itinerary this afternoon. From my reading before hand, I understood their concept of wanting to build a high quality healthcare hub for the region by building state of the art facilities and partnering with world class organizations such as the Mayo Clinic & Harvard Medical School. Their plans are quite ostentatious and a little difficult to discern in figuring out how it all fits together. Earlier in Abu Dhabi, I was disappointed to hear how the hospitals run by Cleveland Clinic were not going to be connected to Dubai. I realized that each emirate was developing their own integrated health network, but they had no plans to connect to each other for coordination, shared resources, or interoperability with Electronic Medical Records. It seemed that they were completely following the example of the US health system, including the worst parts where people don’t work together. I really thought that the UAE would be more innovative in this field with a blended federal/private approach to creating a health system that could be an example to other nations.

As for DHCC itself, much of the Phase 1 is still under development. Really, only the headquarters are open right now, but the main hospital and the Harvard Med School should be open within a year or so. While their plans are quite grand for creating a hub for specialty secondary and tertiary care, I feel there are some serious flaws and problems. First, I don’t understand their partnerships. It was basically described to us as a way to establish themselves as a quality place for care. You cannot copy and paste Mayo’s brand though. Plus, I do not know why these US and international institutions would risk damaging their own brands or subjecting themselves to liability claims…all I can say is they must be getting a significant financial reward for this. I also feel that this is an attempt to just razzle and dazzle people instead of looking at serious healthcare issues. The health system from what I understand is a weak network of local clinics and hospitals. Emiratis receive free care, and the ex-pats get coverage through their private employers. I think the people here deserve more than just a fancy city of hospitals. I think this is just another demonstration of the fascination with having the biggest and the best instead of working to develop smart, effective, and efficient policies that serves the people.

There were some positives of DHCC though. I was very excited to hear that they plan to have centers focusing on both mental and oral health. Since I am so ingrained in these two issues in my job, I have developed an appreciation for them and know that you cannot have a truly comprehensive health system without these two key peices. The plans also include a heavy focus on wellness and prevention, much like what is being discussed in America as a part of our health reform. The UAE is also very progressive on stem cell research and using it in medical research. Im pretty sure this did not include embryonic stem cells, but I was surprised to learn that there was no religious beliefs that forbade this. Some of my Truman colleagues also asked about HIV/AIDS research. While this is not my field at all, I was surprised to learn that the UAE deports people who test positive. When asked if they planned any initiatives to research this disease, the question was not answered showing that they would just rather ignore an issue that attempt to tackle it. Overall, I feel that DHCC could become a strong center for quality medical training and treatment in the middle east. With my interest and experience in health policy, I think it is safe to say that I was quite disappointed and upset with the lack of a focus on developing a complete health system when they have the opportunity right now to do this from scratch…I just think that they could do more to save themselves from the having to deal with the hardships that we face in America with our health system in the future. -AH