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Nov 15, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 20)

Asia Emerging as Healthcare Destination

Globe-Trotting Patients Most Often Seek Inexpensive or Experimental Treatment

  • Country by Country

    Click Image To Enlarge +

    In 2005, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand welcomed over 2.5 million international patients. The Table summarizes patients’ origins, revenues, and most likely treatments available in these countries.
    A country’s IPC potential can be ascertained from its number of JCI-accredited medical centers.

    Singapore and India each have 16, Thailand has 11, Korea boasts 7, and Malaysia has 6. Singapore and Thailand have been the most aggressive in developing their IPC industry, and India and Malaysia are playing catch up. Thailand generated the largest revenues, followed by Singapore and India. South Korea and Taiwan are far behind but hope to use their success in high technology to create major medical centers.

    At this time, Singapore predominantly attracts patients from Indonesia and Malaysia; Thailand draws large numbers of patients from Japan; and both India and South Korea attract many of their own expatriates. The Middle East and China are attractive markets for all of these countries, and aggressive marketing campaigns are ongoing in these countries.

    The level and type of medical expertise also tends to vary by country. Singapore and India are generally recognized as providing advanced medical treatments, while Thailand and Malaysia provide a mixture of both medical procedures and dental and cosmetic treatments. Taiwan’s government is promoting its expertise in joint replacement, cardiovascular operations, in vitro fertilization, facial rejuvenation, and liver transplants.

  • Private Sector

    IPC is not entirely the bailiwick of governments and medical centers. Some companies have entered the fray and are working to establish a competitive advantage by offering advanced treatments that are not always offered in industrialized countries.

    For instance, STC Life operates a clinic in Seoul that uses stem cells to treat cancer and immune diseases. It plans to open another facility in the economic zone of Jeju to target patients from China and Taiwan.

    Thailand’s Bumrungrad Hospital was the first JCI-certified hospital in Asia. It has 1,000 doctors, half of whom were trained abroad. Bumrungrad boasts that it can perform a heart bypass operation for $24,600, as compared with $130,000 in the U.S.

    In 2005, Bumrungrad International Ltd (BIL) was created to acquire, develop, and manage medical facilities throughout Asia and the Middle East. BIL operates the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Manila, Philippines; has a joint venture to build and operate Bumrungrad Hospital Dubai; and manages the Al Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi City.

    Parkway Hospitals Singapore runs 16 hospitals with more than 3,000 beds in Asia including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, India, and China. It also has a network of 35 ParkwayHealth Patient Assistance Centers. Two major Asian financial groups are currently competing to acquire Parkway Holdings. One is Fortis Healthcare, a Delhi-based group of Indian hospitals, the other is Khazanah, Malaysia’s sovereign fund.

    To date, U.S. companies and institutions have generally ignored medical outsourcing. One exception is Johns Hopkins University, which owns and operates Singapore International Medical Centre, an oncology facility. The outsourcing of medical care may be at an early stage, but it would be unwise for U.S. companies to ignore its potential.

Readers' Comments

Posted 02/10/2011 by Christina deMoraes

As a Patient Advocate in Medical Tourism having helped almost 300 patients and a former patient myself, it is frustrating to see the continued HUGE gap in the understanding of what the components are truly necessary to help guarantee a SUCCESSFUL medical tourism (IPC) experience for the patient. Take a look at my blog on this at:  http://community.traveling4health.com/blog/medical-tourism-missing-component
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