Medical Tourism on the Rise
The terms “medical tourism”, or “wellness tourism”, has been bandied about for the past decade. The lucrative sector involves people from rich countries traveling to less-developed countries to obtain medical care. They do so for a number of reasons, one of which is that they can seek better or comparable medical care while paying a lot less than they do in their own country. Thailand, for example, has been one of the top ten destinations for inexpensive medical treatment. That is something we like to brag about.
First and foremost, many patients visit developing countries for medical purposes because of the affordable price. The cost of treatment in most developed countries is very high. A short visit to a doctor in the US for a small cut can ring up a bill of over $100, while larger procedures may cost much more.
The waiting time is also quite a hassle. I remember seeing a doctor in the US for the first time for a simple cold. I needed to make an appointment at least 2 weeks in advance. By the time I received medical attention, I’d already recovered from over-the-counter medicine. For a less-urgent appointment, the waiting time is much worse. A survey by the national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins in 15 major cities in the US has revealed that it takes patients an average of 24 days to schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Most private hospitals and small clinics in Thailand usually welcome walk-in patients and outpatients are taken care of on a first-come, first-served basis. Most hospitals here also take all forms of credit cards and can even issue an English itemized receipt so that medical tourists can reimburse them with their insurance company if it covers the care received abroad.
Also, many medical tourists can enjoy a stay in a luxury hotel or resort that has a program to support medical tourists after surgery. Many wellness tourists who come to Thailand also try health programs for alternative therapies such as Ayurveda, herbalism, detoxification, yoga, emotional balance, weight management, and stress relief sessions. After the treatments, they can indulge themselves with a holiday on the beach in the south, relax in a resort up in the northern highlands, or stay at specially designed wellness centers found throughout Bangkok.
Getting a specific medical treatment in many developing countries, however inexpensive, doesn’t mean you have to compromise the quality of care. The Joint Commission International (JCI), an international body that provides certification to hospitals worldwide ensuring quality of medical treatment, has accredited hospitals and clinics in different countries, including over 60 in Thailand. Thailand was actually the first Asian country to achieve Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation in 2002.
of medical services that may not be legal or widely available in the patient’s home country. Thailand is well known for providing many of these challenging treatments such as fertility treatment, open-heart surgery and gender reassignment surgery.
Notwithstanding some language barriers, the dietary, cultural and weather issues, or the risk of flying back home during recovery period, there are still more pros than cons when it comes to obtaining medical care in Thailand. That’s why foreign tourists will continue to visit Thailand as a medical hub.