Thailand private hospitals increasingly dependent on international patients

Thailand is looking to medical tourism to improve its private hospital business, according to Kasikorn Research Centre.

Medical tourism is a key factor in boosting Thailand’s private hospital business, according to Kasikorn Research Centre.

The bank think-tank unit says private hospital business remains promising because it has maintained double-digit growth rates in recent years, thanks to a growing number of international patients. Looking into 2017 and ahead, it expects that private hospitals will be driven further by international patients, in particular medical tourists, given that the share of such patients versus the total income of listed private hospitals rose to 27% in 2015, beating the 25% reported for 2011. That figure is projected to reach 30% in 2017.

Thai patient turnover in private hospital business has largely been supported by rising medical costs due to inflation and the increasing complexity of diseases. The number of domestic patients visiting private hospitals for medical treatments has not grown significantly, though, as evidenced by the marginal turnover growth attained from Thai patients.

Thus, private hospitals have to seek other income other than from the treatment of Thai patients. Non-hospital businesses have the potential to provide additional income for private hospitals, including home healthcare medical devices, services for the elderly such as nursing homes, in-patient food services and pharmacy.

In order for private hospitals to expand their medical tourism clientele, Kasikom Research is of the view that they should consider Myanmar and the Middle East as attractive markets with promising potential. Other emerging markets with high potential include China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Private hospitals may need to adjust, engage in newer marketing strategies and provide services tailored to the needs of people from different countries.

Medical tourism helps to generate THB 40,000 million a year in treatment fees, which does not take into account income related business such as retail, tourism, hotels and restaurants.

Thai patients still supply 70% of the overall revenue at private hospitals. Increasing the local patient market is challenging for private hospitals as public hospitals are improving the quality and scope of their services.

The centre estimates overall revenue of private hospitals targeting international patients will expand 10% to 12% in 2017, which is higher than private hospitals that focus entirely on the domestic market that are likely to achieve a revenue growth rate of 7% to 9% in 2017.

Although medical tourism is a promising market, hospitals face fierce competition from neighbouring countries such as Malaysia. Kasikorn Research Centre regularly highlights the potential of medical tourism for private hospitals but in recent years has not publicly offered actual numbers.

More than 55,000 Omanis visited Thailand in 2016 as medical tourists, according to the data provided by Thai diplomatic mission in Oman. The number of Omanis visiting Bangkok has been constantly increasing, with a 25% increase in 2016. A total of 105,299 tourists visited Thailand from Oman, of which more than half were medical tourists, says Jesda Katavetin, Ambassador of Thailand to Oman. A total of 85,726 Omanis visited Thailand in 2015, many of them for medical purposes.