Further growth forecasted for Asia’s medical tourism industry

The Asian medical tourism market is showing continued growth, with countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Bali receiving medical tourists from neighboring countries due to their superior healthcare systems.

Asia’s medical tourism industry has undergone rampant growth in recent years. Medical tourists from all over the world are increasingly drawn to Asian countries by the prospect of quality medical services dispensed in luxurious environs – but with a significantly lower price tag than they would expect to see at home.

This phenomenon is by no means limited to one or two nations. On the contrary, clinics and private hospitals that cater specifically to international patients are popping-up across the region, with prominent providers in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Bali.

And that’s only one of many reports forecasting major growth in global medical tourism. Research conducted by Patients Beyond Borders (PBB) looks specifically at what the organisation terms ‘medical travel’, or crossing borders to receive healthcare. This classification stretches to include patients who are travelling not for the sake of a holiday, but simply to access a higher calibre of healthcare than is available in their region.

PBB begins with the assumption the average patient will spend between $3,900 and $6,200 per visit, including direct medical costs, transport and accommodation. Given current estimates of how many patients travel abroad for healthcare, this means the current market share for medical travel ranges from $47 to 57.2 billion.

As the number of patients seeking healthcare internationally continues to grow, this pool of potential revenue is only going to grow. Needless to say, developers, entrepreneurs and government officials across Asia are taking notice.

Elective Procedures Dominate Asia’s Medical Tourism Industry

Asia has long been a top destination for elective procedures, particularly for patients from Australia and New Zealand. National healthcare schemes in these patients’ home countries may cover essential medical operations, but they don’t make allowances for elective procedures including plastic surgery and some dental work.

Medical providers in the Asia-Pacific region are well aware of the limits of their target customers’ home healthcare allowances, so they design their products and services with this in mind. As a result, plastic surgery in Thailand, and even Bali, has become particularly popular with medical tourists, drawing them to the region for procedures encompassing rhinoplasty, tummy tucks, breast augmentation and a whole range of other aesthetic treatments.

These are already popular holiday destinations for tourists. Given that many cosmetic procedures require minimal recovery time, tourists can effectively combine a procedure with an overseas holiday. Scheduling the operation early in their visit gives them time to relax and recover on a tropical beach or in a five-star resort, which offer the utmost in discretion and privacy. By the time patients are ready to return home they can jump back to their daily life without missing a beat.

Asia’s Range of Healthcare Services Is Also Expected to Grow

As the industry continues to grow and develop, many healthcare providers in Asia are looking to branch-out beyond the standard elective offerings. With such robust revenue streams already in place, many providers are finding that expanding their offerings is a natural next step.

In many ways, Thailand has become a poster child for just this type of growth and expansion. Private hospitals such as Yanhee Hospital in Bangkok and Bangkok Hospital in Phuket receive a significant percentage of their patients from across national borders. And the patients they receive are increasingly coming for more mainstream medical procedures.

Many less-developed neighboring countries simply do not have the resources to invest in their own healthcare infrastructure. As a result, their hospitals suffer from dated facilities and a lack of qualified practitioners. For people in this position, Thailand’s emerging healthcare industry is a lifeline.

By the same token, the success of healthcare industries in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore is leading other countries to double down on their own infrastructure. For example, a significant number of Indonesian patients routinely travel to Malaysia for medical reasons. Some experts estimate that Indonesian health tourists are already injecting upwards of $1.03 billion into the Malaysian economy – and this figure continues to grow each year.

By attempting to capitalise on medical tourism trends in the region, Indonesian officials hope to bolster their domestic medical infrastructure and repatriate some of their own patients in the process. These efforts culminated in the recent opening of Bali Mandura Hospital and a host of smaller clinics on the tourist island of Bali.

International Patients Seek Quality Information Related to Medical Tourism in Asia

Medical tourists travel significant distances to take advantage of healthcare in Asia. As a result, they have to complete substantial research and planning ahead of their trip to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently once they’re on the ground it the host country. This has paved the way for third-party services that connect patients with providers.

Medical Departures is one such organisation for the Asia-Pacific region. The company operates a website that connects patients with clinics in Thailand, Bali and elsewhere in the region. CEO Paul McTaggart says he believes the company provides vital support to Asia’s medical tourism industry.

“We’ve seen a swell of interest in cosmetic surgery in Bali and Thailand,” he said. “By helping our clients research their options and connect with providers ahead of their travels, we’re helping them make more informed decisions.” He added that this improves the quality of care they receive whilst ensuring that the best and most reputable medical practitioners receive the attention they deserve.