Dubai – MENA Herald: UAE patients and families turning to crowdfunding websites in an attempt to secure the costs needed for medical care are putting themselves at risk of receiving insufficient funds and delayed treatment, warn experts.

According to statistics portal, Statista, the global crowdfunding value of funds reached USD 10 billion in 2014, up from only USD 1.5 billion in 2011, with social causes being the most active categories worldwide. The World Bank forecasts that with high social media penetration, and belief that the practice can be in accordance with sharia laws, the crowdfunding value in Middle East and North Africa will reach up to USD 5.6 billion by 2025.

The crowdfunding concept is relatively new to the Middle East, compared to the United States and United Kingdom, and is currently largely comprised of business and entrepreneurial investments.

Recently, however, many UAE patients are turning to crowdfunding platforms to source financial aid for medical treatments. Many of these patients have no medical insurance, or have basic insurance plans which do not sufficiently cover the cost of treating the medical condition.

“Crowdfunding platforms are increasingly being utilized as fundraising outlets for expensive medical treatments in the UAE, however, patients are underestimating the risks of relying on these platforms. These risks include not being able to raise the amount required for treatment, and not raising the amount in time for successful treatment,” said Duncan Crerar, Director of Corporate Solutions at Nexus.

“Unfortunately, this method of raising funds is usually sought by those who are uninsured or with insufficient coverage,” Duncan Crerar said. “We hope to see this trend curb now that the new medical insurance regulations are firmly in place. But even then, businesses not only have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are covered, but to provide proper coverage so that all healthcare needs are met in the event of an emergency. This will prevent patients from resorting to outside sources of funding for critical care.”

According to financial advisors at Nexus Group, there are a number of additional risks that patients must be aware of before perceiving crowdfunding as a viable alternative to health insurance plans. Many crowdfunding platforms incorporate a specified time-frame for financial aid seekers to raise the required sums. Failure to achieve the specified amount in the time provided will result in the invalidation of the attempt, and all funds raised will be returned to investors.

Patients will also be in a position where they have to compete and campaign against a high number of alternative social causes online. With no direct financial regulations by local authorities, donors are often wary of medical petitions, and may perceive appeals as being insincere with higher financial objectives than necessary or even outright fraud.

Having an effective health insurance plan for your employees in place will help prevent vulnerable patients from seeking lower-cost and sometimes questionable treatment. Health insurance will also encourage customers to seek professional medical advice at an early stage, which can help prevent critical conditions.