New plans to boost Korean medical tourism

The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plan aspires to attract 300,000 foreign patients to the country by increasing transparency in Korea’s medical services industry and reinvigorating a recently slumping medical market for foreign patients.

Health minister Chung Chin-youb comments, “ The plan responds to criticism that the measures and mechanisms to help foreign patients involved in medical disputes in the country are inadequate, as well as the argument that information on treatments and procedures are generally difficult to access. The plan is to have a website that provides consultation and support for foreign patients regarding any difficulties they may face in Korea, such as compensation in the case of a medical accident or disputes over treatment fees.”

The website will also offer information on buying insurance, providing medical information during the treatment process, mediating disputes on malpractice and over charging, plus supporting foreign patients in legal actions.

The Medical Korea portal will offer services in five foreign languages and include information on obtaining insurance ahead of a procedure, the treatment process, medical dispute mediation and compensation for damages. The site is currently on a trial and will officially launch in 2016. Medical Korea also operates a hotline Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The number of international patients in Korea doubled from 60,201 in 2009 to 122,297 in 2011. Since then, it has continued to increase, with 159,464 patients in 2012, 211,218 patients in 2013 and 266,201 patients in 2014. These figures are for all international patients, not just medical tourists.

The government will make it compulsory for medical institutes treating foreign patients to explain medical transcription and side effects to patients, and to buy insurance to cover the cost of medical disputes.

In addition, the health ministry will crack down on illegal brokers that partner with medical clinics and charge huge extra fees to patients. Rewards will be paid to people reporting illegal deals. The aim is improve the brand image of Korean medical institutions.

To boost medical tourism, the ministry will support the development of medical check-up products for foreign tourists.