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Primary care in Dubai: What is it and why is it important?

As much as USD 80 billion in annual government spending is wasted in the Arab world as a result of healthcare inefficiencies, according to this The National article. Chief among these inefficiencies is the tendency for patients to send themselves to expensive specialists and hospitals instead of visiting a General Practitioner for treatment. Amidst rising healthcare fees, and subsequently rising health insurance prices, health officials in the UAE are increasingly promoting the use of primary care to relieve mounting costs. But what exactly is primary care, and why is it important? Read our article to find out.

What is primary care?

Before we define primary care, it would be prudent to first clarify that healthcare consists of three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Secondary and tertiary services are mainly provided by hospitals and specialists. Primary care, on the other hand, refers to the first level of healthcare for patients. This type of care is mainly provided by General Practitioners (GPs), but community pharmacists – among others (e.g. family physicians, nurse practitioners) – are also considered primary care providers.

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Primary care plays an integral role in the overall health of populations, and covers a wide range of services such as:

  • Prevention and management of acute and chronic conditions
  • Health promotion
  • Health risk assessment
  • Disease identification
  • Rehabilitative, supportive, and palliative treatment

Top benefits of primary healthcare

As the incidence of lifestyle-related diseases continues to rise, having one doctor who knows your medical condition and history has become increasingly important. Building a relationship with a primary treatment practitioner can lead to numerous positive health outcomes for you and your family, including:

  • Consistency: By having a close relationship with one primary care provider, you won’t have to keep explaining your medical condition(s) and history to every new physician you visit.
  • Convenience: Within a primary care practice you can access many different types of healthcare services, including treatment for chronic conditions (e.g. rhinitis, diabetes, asthma), and acute treatment for a wide range of ailments (e.g. fever, digestive problems).
  • Comfort: By having one doctor who knows your medical condition, you are able to feel more comfortable with the healthcare provider, and thus more at ease with sharing embarrassing or sensitive symptoms and health concerns.
  • Disease prevention: Regular checkups with a physician can make sure any health problems that may arise are detected early, when they’re most treatable.
  • Health maintenance: Primary healthcare providers are in a unique position to help you avoid health problems, as they have a deep understanding of your medical history and can therefore better determine your risk of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Call to promote primary care in Dubai

A recent Middle East Insurance Review (MEIR) article called to attention the UAE government’s need to clamp down on patients “self-referring” themselves to costly specialists, or “doctor shopping”, to combat rising health insurance costs. In part, this reflects Dubai’s demographics. The majority of the population are expatriates, many of whom are unfamiliar with the local healthcare system. As such, they think that it’s best to frequent hospitals closest to them, should they experience any health issues.

Emphasis on preventative care

In addition to promoting the utilization of primary healthcare practitioner services, the government is also putting emphasis on preventative care, and the need for the UAE healthcare system to identify costly illnesses – e.g. cancer – and foster a culture of regular check-ups and healthy lifestyles.

Mandatory health insurance plans in Dubai received a cancer screening coverage boost to address this issue at the beginning of 2018. As we highlighted in this Pacific Prime Dubai article, patients with detected breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer are now covered in full – from screening to treatment – by even the most basic health insurance plans. Previous enhancements to mandatory coverage also include:

  • Diabetes screening
  • Newborn and developmental screening
  • Heart disease screening

Health insurance and primary care

Primary care treatment has been shown to improve outcomes, but not everyone in Dubai utilizes it. On the surface, it can seem like the more expensive option, as it might be easier on your wallet in the short run to just visit a hospital or doctor for acute treatment (i.e. care that addresses an existing ailment). However, the preventative focus of primary healthcare – e.g. increased likelihood of detecting health problems – will offset the initial expense of seeking primary healthcare in the long run.

With this in mind, Pacific Prime Dubai suggests that all those who would like to seek out frequent primary healthcare services obtain a comprehensive health insurance policy featuring robust outpatient benefits. With superior medical insurance coverage, you won’t have to worry about low annual limits and high co-pays, and will be able to see your doctor on a regular basis, as well as receive all screenings and check-ups that may be needed to identify health problems as early as possible.

If you have any questions about healthcare or health insurance in Dubai, be sure to get in touch with our team today! As Dubai’s leading broker, not only can we identify the best plans for your needs, we can give you impartial advice and a health insurance quote free of charge! That way, you can easily receive primary care treatment with maximum peace of mind.

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Content Strategist at Pacific Prime Dubai
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.