Enhancing Medical Tourism, In the UAE since more than 15 years, Dr. Raza Siddiqui has been able to establish himself as a known figure in the medical tourism industry
Enhancing Medical Tourism
In the UAE since more than 15 years, Dr. Raza Siddiqui has been able to establish himself as a known figure in the medical tourism industry
In this edition, we have on dais a person who is acclaimed to promote medical tourism in the UAE region.
Dr. Raza Siddiqui has an experience of 3 decades in the healthcare industry. He began his career with pharmaceutical companies such as Ranbaxy and Lupin Laboratory. He currently is the CEO at Arabian Healthcare Group, a premier group with RAK Hospital as its flagship brand. Dr. Siddiqui has been in the UAE for over 15 years now, pursuing his ambition of creating a global niche of premium healthcare with premium hospitality.
Arabian Healthcare Group Co. LLC (AHCG) is a premium global healthcare management and a consulting firm, excelling in developing state-of-the-art hospitals not only in the Middle East, but also in the international healthcare arena. RAK Hospital, the flagship brand of AHG is a premium tertiary healthcare facility in Ras Al Khaimah offering a range of services. This 80-bed facility has been accredited by Swiss leading Hospital and JCI (USA).
Dr. Siddiqui has been instrumental in AHG’s association with Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Shalby Hospitals, Tufts University, University of Sydney and other notable brands to bring expertise to Ras Al Khaimah.
He was also awarded a PhD for his lifelong work in the reform of private healthcare.
The medical tourism connection
Prior to joining the Arabian Healthcare Group, Dr. Siddiqui worked with the Apollo Group of Hospitals in India in different capacities, including Director of International Operations, where he conceptualised, planned and launched advanced care multi-specialty hospitals. A distinguished personality and pioneer in the field of medical tourism, he has been part of many ambitious projects including the promotion of India as one of the top medical tourism destinations. He has now concentrated his efforts on establishing the UAE as the ideal medical tourism destination promoting world-class hospitality with premium healthcare.
He first come to the UAE while working as Director, International Operations, for the Apollo Hospitals Group, for setting up an advanced care multi-specialty hospital in Dubai. In that role, he also worked with the Joint Commission International for the accreditation of the hospital and established strong rapport with various government offices and with the Ministries of Health in the UAE and the Middle East, connections that have helped in shaping his future plans for RAK Hospital. He also arranged for the treatment of many patients per year from the Middle East region in India. During his stint at Apollo India, he helped establish a diverse network of physicians and general practitioners as a referral base across India.
Dr. Siddiqui has been successful in replicating similar success in the UAE by steering the Arabian Healthcare Group towards becoming a major player in the UAE healthcare sector in a short span of time. He is one of the key personalities to develop UAE as one of the popular destination for medical tourism. He conceptualized RAK Hospital as a destination that will cater to the needs of local population and nearby.
Since its inception, RAK Hospital has played a leading role in putting Ras Al Khaimah on the global medical tourism map. The hospital attracts significant numbers of medical tourists from Middle East, Africa, and the CIS countries, who seek to benefit from the hospital’s premium healthcare facilities, combining it with a holiday in the northern emirate. In addition, RAK Hospital is internationally established in 11 countries with a focus on Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
He was also instrumental in the setting up of the RAK College of Medical Sciences, a network of clinics and clinical referral laboratories along with the establishment of a medical equipment trading division.
Dr. Siddiqui was recently nominated by HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi for the Board of Directors of Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is the first Indian to hold this position. As a member of the board, he will focus on strengthening Ras Al Khaimah’s position as a business, healthcare and tourist destination.
He is further involved with the development of ETA’s Dubai Lifestyle City, the Dhs 2.5 billion unique lifestyle project in Dubailand, and is a project that combines healthcare along with premium lifestyle.
In a conversation with Health Biz Insight, he shares more information about his role in the Middle East healthcare scenario.
With RAK being far less popular than Dubai, what prompted you to start medical tourism there?
Set in the scenic backdrop of the picturesque Ras Al Khaimah, RAK Hospital presents a perfect environment for people seeking to improve their health and well-being. Since its inception in 2007, our premier healthcare institution has earned a reputation for seamlessly blending hospital facilities with hospitality features. Cutting-edge technological resources, skilled medical team and multi-lingual staff compliment the hospital’s indigenous concierge, valet and spa services, prominently placing RAK Hospital on the medical tourism map in the UAE.
The proximity to Dubai Airport gives RAK Hospital an added advantage of attracting many tourists looking to combine their vacation with medical services. The hospital stands tall among its counterparts in this regards since its warm and reassuring healthcare resources compliment the amazing beauty of Ras Al Khaimah, giving patients the much-needed serenity and peace to recover and recuperate. Moreover, the top-notch medical care ensures that visitors get the same treatment they would in any developed country, but at a lower cost.
The hospital has also forged steady relations with international airlines and leading hospitality players to create cost-effective healthcare packages for foreign medical tourists. The campus includes state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities, surgical programmes, operation theatres, cardiac labs, a stroke unit and rehabilitation programmes.
What are the advantages, if any, of running a hospital in a smaller city?
I think Mayo Clinic in Rochester and John Hopkins are great examples of smaller city hospitals where people from all over the world travel for treatments.
RAK Hospital has also made great strides as a medical tourism hub. The hospital has a relaxed, welcoming environment, is at a scenic location and its many medical breakthroughs highlight its innovative approach towards the field of medicine.
Tell us a bit about the hub and spoke model of RAK Hospital.
The Hub and Spoke model has similarity in base structure with primary, secondary and tertiary care settings within a network, with a fundamental change. That change is the intended direction of flow of the patient within the care network. Now a days, the focus is for more care to be delivered in the outpatient setting where costs can be reduced, access can be increased and preventative and post-acute care can be administered in a more efficient manner.
Our clinics focus on outpatient care and for more advanced care, patients are referred to the hospital, this way the profitability is never compromised and patients also get easy access to quality healthcare.
I believe advances in medical technology, less invasive procedures and growth in telemedicine will continue to enable providers to focus on a more integrated care model. To maintain the patient population, providers are expected to deliver expanded services in a time-sensitive, high quality and efficient manner across all points of care.
You have tie-ups with some notable international organisations for developing healthcare in RAK. How do you make RAK an attractive business proposition for them?
RAK Hospital has forged several strategic alliances with leading healthcare institutions across the world. Its partners in excellence include Apollo Hospitals, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Shalby Hospitals, amongst others.
Through our tie-ups, we have been able to bring highly-specialised doctors, while allowing patients with complicated issues the option of undergoing treatments within their comfort zone. These alliances also help the visiting doctors the advantage of connecting with their fellow doctors while providing a platform for knowledge exchange through regular CME programs that we organise for them. They also work on mentoring the concerned departments in the hospital while our marketing efforts help them generate a lot of referral business. So, we are certainly creating a win-win situation in this scenario by bringing the best to the doorsteps of people of UAE and neighbouring countries and providing brand visibility to our partners.
Would you be replicating the RAK Hospital model in other Emirates in UAE or other countries in GCC?
Certainly, we are in the process of replicating the RAK Hospital model in our forthcoming projects in Dubai and other parts of GCC.
AHG has an association with Sonnenhof Swiss Health. How do you draw upon the rich Swiss heritage of healthcare and hospitality to elevate GCC as a medical tourism destination?
Switzerland is the pioneer in medical tourism. Affluent class still go to Switzerland, including Hollywood celebrities. Hence, when we wanted to embark into medical tourism in RAK, Sonnenhof Swiss Health was only the right choice, as there was no point in re-inventing the wheel.
On-boarding of resources from this group was the right move since they have been doing it for over approximately 200 years. They proved us right not only in terms of medical tourism but also in creating patient delight through Swiss based protocols.
You are the first Indian to hold a prominent position in the Board of Directors of Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. How do you plan on using this position to benefit the healthcare sector?
Since the Ras Al Khaimah pharma industry is strong, and because it is promoting itself as a goods manufacturing destination, we are trying to work out collaborations with Indian companies. This will add a lot of value to the destination. I am also trying to promote the skills of Indian doctors. These doctors begin visiting the UAE to practice first and at a later stage, many of them look to invest in the UAE.
This will facilitate reduction in healthcare cost and prevent the RAK community from moving out of RAK for availing healthcare.
How is the medical equipment trading division you set up in Ras Al Khaimah making an impact on the sector? Share some success stories.
Now into its 10th year, the trading division was the first division that did business of around AED 40 million in the first year. At that time, people had inhibitions about using Indian technology and this particular company started promoting ‘Make in India’ goods here in UAE, which has been accepted very well. The middle-tier in particular accepts efficiency and cost-effectiveness, which India is able to provide.
We have some partners who have collaborated with major equipment companies of the West and started following the vision of Make in India and they’ve even started producing in India, which was accepted very well here in the region. I believe the UAE is a very big platform to launch cost-effective, quality Indian technology.
Is there retrenchment across the healthcare sector in GCC? If yes, how are you dealing with this issue?
I don’t think there’s any retrenchment in healthcare. I believe that this place has a potential for another 50 years. For one thing, the domestic population is increasing; I came to the UAE in 1998 and that time the population was 2.5 million. Today, it is 10 million. And healthcare is essential, everybody requires it. Secondly, a lot of medical tourists have started coming here, which will continue to grow.
You believe in providing your colleagues an environment to help them become leaders in their business as well as personal lives. How do you do this?
I always believe in creating leaders. We have managed to roll out leaders in the medical, para medical and allied services. I believe every individual should be empowered to become a future leader and in turn the prospective leaders should empower their subordinates to shoulder higher responsibility and accountability and in the process, the prospective leaders should hone additional skills through training programs and associate with world leaders in respective areas.
This ensures that your colleagues develop ownership for the organisation.
A recent controversy had sparked when it was realised that an increasing number of Indian doctors have been frequently visiting the GCC, and hence the quality of care is apparently getting compromised in both the sectors. What do you have to say about this?
One cannot digest this statement. In fact, US has close to 30% Indian doctors who have created a niche for themselves. I strongly advocate Indian doctors as they are highly skilled in their respective area of specialisation and provide quality clinical treatment at a fraction of a price.
In regard to their frequent visits to the GCC, leading to compromised healthcare in both the sectors is just not acceptable as these specialised doctors are not only adding great value in terms of quality healthcare, but also enhancing the expertise of the peers in both the sectors.
By: Jayata Sharma
Health Biz Insight