Developments in Dubai Medical Tourism

Just finished reading an article in Monday’s Gulf News discussing Dubai’s grandiose plans for attracting medical tourism. Indeed, the UAE is on its way to becoming a hub in many areas, such as logistics, banking, shipping, and even Islamic finance. Medical care must be high on the agenda.

Using its role as a transport hub and a highly desirable place to live, the Emirate has taken steps to realize its ambitious plans to be a health care hub.  This is in line with the Dubai Health Strategy 2013-2025 that was rolled out recently.  This will include three new hospitals and 40 clinics.  With Expo2020 coming its way, it would be expected that this be the case.

One of the more interesting issues I noticed in the article was

What does this mean for health care companies seeking to get a piece of the action?

1. Due Diligence. Do you know who your partner will be? If you are not setting up in the free zones and do need a partner substantial due diligence should be done, as a bad partner can open the door to various types of liability.

2. Territoriality.  Companies seeking to make their first foray into the Persian Gulf region should take care to note territoriality in their contracts.  Irrespective of whether you are are entering into a joint venture, distributorship or franchise, territory is key.  It’s best to make sure contracts outline what territory – this is particularly important in a cash region where duplication and replication in other jurisdictions is quite common.

3. Intellectual Property Law. Particular attention must be paid to IP rights to make sure there is no misappropriation and that all requisite rights are licensed while control stays with the principal.

4. Human Resources Issues.  It is critical to get people on the ground and making sure you are able to have the visas processed and are fully aware of local labor law issues is absolutely imperative.

5. Compliance.  Compliance is the name of the game these days and appears to be taking hold in the GCC as well. Whether you have due-diligence, know your customer (KYC) type requirements or you want to make sure you comply with the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) privacy standards (which may be come the gold standard, even abroad) and potentially applicable data privacy guides. There may be trade-related matters to deal with, such as ensure compliance with US sanctions on Iran and Syria, which are often in flux.

6. Confidentiality. Use Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) where possible. This will help keep your plan under wraps and will help guard against somebody spilling the beans as they say. The cities in the Gulf (Dubai being no exception) tend to a bit small and people can talk!

A good foray will be well-papered, meaning there should be robust, comprehensive contracts in place that protect the parties.  A solid entry is one that takes all the legal issues into perspective to deliver an optimal strategy that will move beyond any type of “gold rush” approach and into one that can create legal stability for the future.