For many years now a large number of HNWIs, hailing from the Arab States in particular, have been travelling abroad to foreign countries in order to receive private medical treatment. The reasons for this vary in nature, but it is largely due to the inability of many of the medical institutions in the region to provide treatment for conditions which are particularly rare or complex.
The governments of many of these countries have acknowledged that there is a shortage of healthcare providers able to meet the requirements of their populations. For example, the United Arab Emirates spends over USD 2 billion annually on sending its residents to facilities overseas for treatment. In fact, every year, approximately 40,000 residents from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Egypt, etc. have been flying abroad on their own countries funding to access medical treatments which are not available in their own countries. Popular destinations that these HNWIs travel to for treatment include the USA, UK, Germany, Singapore and China.
The high standard of living present in many of the Arab countries has meant that many of the medical problems associated with such lifestyles have become an issue for their citizens. Having access to an abundance of food, performing mainly sedentary tasks and having a means of transport which requires little physical exertion from the traveller has meant that diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes have become more prevalent. In fact, the top 5 countries with the highest rates of obesity all hail from the Middle East: Kuwait (42.8% obesity), Saudi Arabia (35.2%), Egypt (34.6%), Jordan (34.3%) and UAE (33.7%) according to the Food Security Index.
Because of this, governments are willing to spend vast amounts of money to send their citizens to other foreign countries where treatment is not available in their own country. There are no ceilings on the amounts many of these countries are willing to pay, and not only is the treatment fully covered, but often they will pay for their citizens to stay in high quality hotels and provide them with a premier experience in general.
For HNWI individuals considering, or indeed, being forced, to travel abroad for treatment, they may feel some apprehension about flying abroad. This apprehension may be even stronger if they have not travelled abroad before or are unfamiliar with the culture of the country they are travelling to. However, it is important to explain why many of the fears individuals may have regarding treatment abroad are unfounded and why the journey should be approached without fear.
Firstly, many hospitals in these countries are among the best in the world thanks to modern medical technology, innovative treatments and the expertise of experienced professionals. International certifications and efficient quality management ensure good treatment results and relatively low rates of complication. After the successful treatment, they also utilise full check-up programs to ensure that the patients are happy and that there are no complications once the procedure has been performed.
In terms of culture, most of the common destinations such as the UK and other European destinations are very welcoming and celebrate diversity within their communities. There is little discrimination and people from all cultures are embraced. There should be no apprehension on the part of the wealthy foreign HNWI when it comes to being accepted. As long as you show respect toward the culture in which you are temporarily integrating into, respect will be shown in return toward your own culture and beliefs.
There are a number of criteria which the HNWI should consider if given the choice of deciding where to receive treatment abroad. Many medical institutions and treatment centres have special leaflets or brochures which they issue to patients from Arab regions which outline how they do their best to accommodate their needs and the previous experiences other Arab patients have received. Although of course, not all patients hailing from the Arab States will be Muslim, a large number of them will be, and if the HNWI is Muslim then we recommend keeping an eye open for the following special measures many institutions provide:
Privacy & Sex Segregation – Where possible, many medical institutions will ensure you receive a same sex doctor when receiving treatment.
Food – many medical institutions will ensure they offer food which is Hallal or allow the patient to provide their own home cooked food. They will also offer special measures for patients who observe Ramadan.
Communication – many medical institutions will offer full language translation services so that the patient feels less like a fish out of water whilst receiving treatment. For long term patients, modes of entertainment to help pass the time such as magazines and television programs in the patient’s language should also be supplied.
Family – the importance of the family structure as a whole in Arab culture is considered by many treatment providers who understand it is customary to inform and seek advice from a patient’s entire family before making any decisions. Family members should also be shown, where appropriate, how to administer any medications or treatment measures which the patient may require whilst recovering from home.
If the HNWI seeking treatment abroad takes all this advice into consideration when choosing a location in which to receive treatments unavailable to them in their home states, then they should have a successful and relatively pleasant experience. The Arab States are beginning to invest in and develop their own medical treatment institutions, for example, Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf state, has earmarked USD 73 billion for building hospitals and healthcare centres in the Kingdom over a four-year period. However, until these developments come to fruition, the necessity of HNWIs travelling abroad for treatment continues to prevail but this should be approached by the HNWI with confidence and positivity, due to the high quality of care and welcoming atmosphere of medical institutions abroad.