Switzerland targets UAE medical travellers

Swiss flag in front on mountains

Switzerland’s healthcare system is among the best in the world but it is also one of the most expensive. When targeting potential nations and customers, it seeks those that can afford high prices for high quality treatment and service. Recently a delegation of medical operators from Switzerland visited the UAE to explore opportunities for inbound Swiss medical tourism.

Mark Wettstein, director of health tourism at Switzerland Tourism estimates that there are 35,000 annual inpatients at Swiss hospitals with residency outside Switzerland. These foreign patients represent around 2% of total patients at Swiss hospitals. The Federal Statistics Office says that in 2017 36,000 foreign residents went to Switzerland for treatment in hospitals and clinics.

The main source countries for these foreign patients, are the GCC region, Russia (including the former Commonwealth of Independent States) and EU countries.

A delegation from five clinics and private hospitals (Hirslanden Private Hospital Group, Rehaklinik Zihlschlacht, Oberwaid Klinik, Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, and Clinique La Prairie) visited the UAE to meet with government entities, health personnel and medical facilitators to explore opportunities to drive Switzerland’s medical tourism sector.

Switzerland Tourism has partnered with 30 hospitals and clinics to develop the messaging around medical tourism in Switzerland, and to jointly coordinate efforts to showcase the country’s quality of healthcare and its ancillary infrastructure.

The country is promoting elective surgeries, cancer treatment and CT scans. The main treatments for foreign patients are oncology, cardiology, orthopaedics and rehabilitation. The primary hubs for these patients remain the regions of Geneva and Zurich. While some, like the Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, offer several specialists under one roof, other dedicated centres, including Mentalva Private Clinic, focus on mental health and complementary medicine.

Switzerland Tourism believes that one of the most important reasons that foreign patients prefer to get treated in Switzerland is because of the high degree of privacy afforded to patients and their families, and the assurance that treating medical facilities will hold sensitive patient information securely and confidentially, giving high-profile patients the ability to escape public or media scrutiny in their home countries during their recovery.

The approximate duration of stay of international patients in Switzerland is seven nights, and on average 2.5 people accompany each patient. Most major hospitals in Switzerland have a dedicated office to organise accommodation and activities for relatives accompanying patients on their visits.

Swiss authorities have waived quarantine requirements for vaccinated visitors. Vaccinated UAE residents and Emiratis, or those who have recovered from the virus, are allowed to enter Switzerland without having to quarantine. Switzerland is also on Abu Dhabi’s green list for travel, which means returning visitors from there do not have to quarantine on arrival in the UAE capital.