Thailand’s leading private hospitals are gearing up for rapid growth in the medical tourism sector over the next three to five years. Two of the country’s biggest hospital operators – Bangkok Hospital Medical Services (BHMS) and Piyavate Hospital – have begun adding rooms and upgrading medical facilities to prepare for an expected increase in the number of foreigners in search of affordable medical treatment.
Thailand’s leading private hospitals are gearing up for rapid growth in the medical tourism sector over the next three to five years.
Two of the country’s biggest hospital operators – Bangkok Hospital Medical Services (BHMS) and Piyavate Hospital – have begun adding rooms and upgrading medical facilities to prepare for an expected increase in the number of foreigners in search of affordable medical treatment.
BHMS is the largest hospital group in Thailand and the second biggest in Asia. It has 19 hospitals in the group. The flagship hospital, the 600-bed Bangkok Hospital Medical Center (BMC) in Bangkok, is actually comprised of four facilities: Wattanosoth Cancer Hospital, Bangkok International Hospital, Bangkok Heart Hospital and Bangkok Hospital (formerly Bangkok General Hospital). All of them have JCI status. Sixty percent of BMC’s patients are Thai nationals and the other forty percent are from other countries, foreign patients who are either visitors or expatriates living in Thai capital.
BHMS has been preparing for the medical tourism boom for a couple of years. It has already increased the number of beds at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, Bangkok Hospital Samui and International Clinic Koh Chang. The group is also renovating and adding beds at Bangkok Hospital Phuket.
Furthermore, several hospitals in the group are gradually upgrading their operations to qualify for JCI accreditation. Specifically, Bangkok Hospital Pattaya and Bangkok Hospital Phuket are reported to be waiting for their accreditation to be formally announced. Bangkok Hospital Pattaya has 110,000 international patients annually from 136 countries.
In another development, Piyavate Hospital, which is being renovated and expanding, said that 20 to 25 percent of its patients last year were foreigners, accounting for half or 50 percent of the hospital’s revenues in 2008. Foreign patients’ contribution to revenue is expected to reach 60 percent over the next five years.
Piyavate Hospital chief executive Tanatip Supparit estimated that some 1.4 million foreigners received medical care in Thailand in 2008, with 800,000 receiving “complicated treatment”.
The hospital plans to establish a medical centre in Oman, which supplies most of the hospital’s foreign clients, and is looking for locations for other overseas centres. “Southern and Eastern African countries are interesting targets for us, as some patients in those areas have begun seeking medical treatment in Asian countries like India and Thailand,” said the hospital’s chief executive.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has said there are over 30 Thai hospitals ready for foreign patients. TAT expects two million visitors to take advantage of medical treatment services and facilities in Thailand in 2009.
Majority of medical tourists come from the Islamic countries in the Persian Gulf: the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. Governments of these countries have contractual relationships with several hospitals. As a result of this, several thousand patients from the Middle East come to Thailand each year for care.
Another large source of foreign patients are neighbouring Asia countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Bangladesh, where the quality of medical care is not as advanced as in Thailand. Also in recent years, patients from Europe, Australia and New Zealand, North Americans and, more recently, East Africans have been flying into the country for medical treatment.