Publicity essential for medical tourism to Korea

The increase in international recognition of Korea’s medical skills is essential to the attraction of more medical tourists, according to a survey published by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) on medical travel in Asia.

The research was conducted on overseas visitors who had visited or planned to visit Korea or other Asian nations as medical tourists. The survey shows visitors put more weight on the quality of hospital staff, reliability of institutions and cost savings than the condition of facilities and equipment.

The surveyed show 75.8 percent of medical tourists in Asia mainly came for cosmetic surgery, followed by Oriental medicine and health checkups. Among visitors to Korea, 80.3 percent were satisfied with the healthcare, with cosmetic surgery showing the highest satisfaction level of 87 percent, while Oriental medicine showed a relatively low level at 72.2 percent.

Ohm Kyong-sop of KTO, comments: “Besides Japan, no country in Asia showed dominance in terms of recognition level of medical tourism, indicating that Korea can become a major player in healthcare tourism if it becomes competitive on service, but it is also possible for the country to fall behind if it fails to do so. Satisfaction levels were higher than expectation levels, meaning people visit Korea without high expectations but are satisfied after receiving treatment. Personal recommendation from visitors will be essential to promotion. Despite its high quality, Korea’s medical tourism has low recognition. We will improve service.”

Lee Shin-ho of KHIDI said the number of foreign patients has increased to 40,000 as of this November from 16,000 last year,

“The government seeks to revise the Medical Law to facilitate medical tours, such as allowing hospitals to promote themselves. Korea’s medical tourism will be competitive when such systems are prepared,” Lee said.