Dubai Expo 2020: Opportunities for the Gulf and beyond

The World Expo is a global event dedicated to finding solutions to fundamental challenges facing humanity by offering a journey inside a chosen theme. For Expo 2020, Dubai has chosen “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” as the theme. The notion of creating the future is especially apt for the next decade. Organized every five years, Dubai Expo 2020 is certain to play an unprecedented role in determining the world’s digital agenda, given the exponential advancement in technology since the previous Expo.  

Addressing evolving patient trends

In addition to the main theme, Dubai has selected three sub-themes — opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. The sub-themes are exceptionally relevant for the healthcare industry, as systems across the globe face evolving patient trends, balance the demand for high clinical quality and low costs, and consider the wave of digital transformation. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that sustainable solutions to these problems are less likely to emerge in health systems working in containment. Stakeholders of the healthcare industry must work toward identifying opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration and ensure the mobility of healthcare resources and service delivery.

Expo 2020 is all set to facilitate the much-needed intervention for health systems. Over a period of six months, we can expect over 200 formal participants from national governments, multinational organizations, educational institutions, and 25 million visitors to descend on Dubai. Dubai Exhibition Centre in collaboration with Medetarian Conferences Organising, a medical conference and consumer events specialist, has arranged nine medical conferences focusing on high-tech healthcare innovations including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, cutting-edge surgical technologies, 3D printing, and wearable health tech. In a strategic move, DEC has also secured the BlockExpo, and World Blockchain Summit 2020, indicating the keen recognition of blockchain technology’s value. 

Cutting-edge technological solutions

Blockchain technology presents extraordinary potential in agile markets like the UAE, which are unencumbered by legacy systems. Keeping in line with Expo 2020’s goal of showcasing the latest technologies, UAE can better yet, serve as a testing ground and a model for other healthcare systems. Blockchain technology has shown promise for almost every aspect of the healthcare industry — from assisting clinical decision making, securing medical records, strengthening pharmaceutical supply chains, supporting global medical mobility, lowering costs, making the patient care journey seamless, to most importantly, increasing trust across the system.

The Expo will not only connect the usual industry stakeholders, but also those outside equipped with solutions that must be leveraged for the healthcare sector. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, the executive director of the Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, has stated that the upcoming events will serve as an “invaluable addition to the UAE’s medical landscape, offering an opportunity for Expo 2020’s international visitors and participants to engage in ground-breaking discussions regarding the global healthcare sector.”

Expo 2020 will, of course, facilitate a transformation in the Emirati healthcare sector. The Dubai Health Authority has put forward a report — “Expo 2020 — DHA Contribution and Support Framework” in which it outlines its mission and objectives.

The most significant of its objectives is to position Dubai as a global medical destination by “introducing value-based, comprehensive, integrated and high-quality delivery systems.” Officials at the DHA have outlined plans to attract 500,000 overseas patients per year, almost 60% higher than the current figure. Medical tourism is expected to be a key revenue stream for Dubai in the coming years, and Expo 2020 is the opportunity to showcase to the world the UAE’s ability to provide the highest quality of care at a reasonable cost.

Public-private partnerships

Another objective is to promote private and public collaboration in healthcare. The DHA Investment Strategy 2017- 2020 aims to promote Dubai as a competitive hub for healthcare investments that address public needs and creates future opportunities for all healthcare stakeholders. A key focus of this strategy is to enable sustainable public-private models in Dubai in order to provide investors high ease of doing business and good service provision. Initiatives range from creating incentives to promote public-private partnership investment to reviewing and implementing regulatory changes. Officials from the Health Regulation Department have since outlined plans to make Dubai a major healthcare investment hub, projecting its outpatient and inpatient markets to be worth around $12.1 billion and $7.5 billion respectively by Expo 2020.

The role of PPPs is a crucial one, as it will directly impact the success of medical tourism-related objectives. From a provider perspective, private players will play an important role in attracting medical talent and up-skilling existing human resources. While Dubai has the latest and best in medical machinery and equipment, it lacks the necessary skilled manpower. PPPs will also assist in ensuring the profitability of the sector while maintaining care quality and securing the trust of patients.

Fostering innovation across the continuum of care and establishing an efficient Decision Support System by ensuring an integrated data platform are two particularly exciting objectives. Besides relaxing investment regulations, Dubai has advised new telehealth regulations, and forged initiatives based around the concept of wellness that are in turn aligned with the Emirates Vision 2021 and emphasizes the importance of preventative medicine. Some of these initiatives include Hasana — a Public Health Surveillance Network; Sheryan — a network of health care specialists among the UAE’s health authorities; Salama – a unified electronic medical file; and Salem – an integrated intelligent system designed to improve the patient journey.


The Expo 2020 will not only be instrumental in furthering Dubai’s own healthcare innovation landscape but will also be a brokering stage for global deals that will position Dubai as an innovation hub for the rest of the world. Strategic location, focus on constant advancement, and commercial agility, has enabled the UAE to gain a unique reputation of being the gateway between the developed and the developing world.

Beginning October 20th, Expo 2020 is going to allow millions of people to share ideas, showcase innovation, encourage collaboration and celebrate human ingenuity. As Dr. Mohammed Abuelkhair, CEO of MCO put it, “Expo 2020 Dubai is a great opportunity for conference organizers such as MCO to take on new initiatives and build something unique for the future.”

For more on the tech trends driving healthcare innovation in the UAE, download a full report here.

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