We are going to take a quick look at top Asian destinations for health travel. This will give you a brief overview of what is available and will provide a starting point for deeper research.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, which has been allowed to maintain a high degree of autonomy in all internal matters such as economics and culture. The SAR carries forward its standards for medical treatment from its century-long tenure as a British Crown Colony. It has 12 private hospitals accredited by the UK’s QHA Trent, with several having dual accreditation with JCI. Costs are quite low, being maintained at 20-23% of US costs as a matter of government policy. A medical-government alliance has begun a concerted effort to grow the role of Medical Tourism in Hong Kong. At present about 7% of patient beds are filled by medical tourists, a percentage which is growing rapidly. No visas are required for stays up to 180 days.
India is a major player in Medical Tourism, greeting over a million medical tourists per year in 2010. Unlike many countries, India provides a wide range of medical services, with emphasis on heart surgery, joint replacement, bone marrow transplants, and other advanced procedures. At present, 10 major hospitals in India have received JCI accreditation, and the Indian government is actively encouraging international accreditation and improving medical infrastructure problems which currently hinder the rate of growth of Medical Tourism. Medical costs in India are among the lowest in the world at 10-20% of US rates. The most populous democracy in the world, India has a healthy economy and encompasses vast geographical and cultural diversity. Visas are required for entry, but are relatively easy to obtain.
Malaysia will soon welcome nearly a million medical tourists per year to its shores. The country is largely English-speaking, and medical facilities are subject to a strong internal accreditation organization, the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health. In addition to national accreditation, many of Malaysia’s better hospitals are also seeking international accreditation. Medical facilities are concentrated largely in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Asia. Medical costs average about 25% of those in the US, depending on a somewhat erratic exchange value for the ringgit. Medical services are expanding from their initial focus on cosmetic surgery to procedures for more serious ailments.
The Republic of the Philippines, consisting of thousands of beautiful tropical islands, has been growing as a destination for medical tourism by about 8% per year. There are tight cultural, economic, and political ties between the Philippines and the United States, which may increase the role of the Philippines as a Medical Tourism destination. A substantial proportion of American medical professionals have been trained in the Philippines, reflecting a solid tradition of medical training and culture. The Philippines government has set a goal of attracting about 750,000 medical tourists per year, a goal that seems soon within reach. Medical costs in the Philippines average about 20-25% of US prices.
Singapore is considered to have the best health system in Asia, and one of the best in the world. Long an active destination for Medical Tourism (about a million medical tourists per year!), providing medical services to international patients is the primary goal of a multi-agency government-industry partnership. Medical Tourists come from across Asia as well as from around the world. Medical costs are not the lowest, averaging about one-third of US rates, but Singapore’s reputation as a clean, safe, cosmopolitan city-state where English is widely spoken makes the added expense worthwhile to many. A growing number of Singapore’s hospitals are receiving international accreditation, with more than a dozen JCI accreditations as of 2006. A constant tropical rainforest climate makes Singapore a delight at all times of the year.
Thailand is perhaps the most active Medical Tourism destination, welcoming around two million medical tourists each year. One hospital alone treated over 50,000 US patients in 2005 at an average cost about 30% that of the US medical system. Nearly any medical procedure can be supplied somewhere in Thailand. Although many Thai physicians and nurses are US or UK trained and hold those professional certifications, the Thai government does not emphasize the role of international accreditation of their hospitals. However, a few of the best private hospitals have obtained JCI accreditation.