Turkey has taken several steps to ensure that health tourism services are properly regulated, with oversight from public officials. This should allow patients to trust the health tourism service providers they deal with. This also means that the barrier for initial entry into health tourism market in Turkey is going to be higher, since a new business will need to satisfy the criteria and obtain the relevant licenses required by the state in order to legally conduct health tourism services.
Medical services and health tourism related issues are tightly regulated under a set of legislative frameworks, starting with the main law text, the Law on the Method of Execution of Medicine and Medical Sciences No. 1219 (Medical Law), the Law on Health Care Services No. 3359 (Healthcare Law), and their secondary regulations and communiques.
According to this framework, the institutions, entities and persons authorised to provide healthcare and patient care services (including health tourism) are strictly controlled and are mainly subject to licenses issued by the Ministry of Health in Turkey.
According to the Regulation Regarding International Medical Tourism and Tourist Health (Health Regulation), agencies acting as intermediary health tourism operators will need to submit two separate applications for two separate licenses to two separate ministries. The licenses are a Group A Tourism Agency License obtained from TURSAB, and then a Medical Tourism Intermediary Agency License obtained from the Ministry of Health. Both of these licenses come with their own sets of criteria and requirements, which new businesses must adhere to in order to obtain them.
The most important one is the Group A tourism agency license (tourism license).
Tourism agencies, and tourism agency licenses, are regulated with the Law on Tourism Agencies and Tourism Agency Associations No. 1618 (Tourism Law) and the Tourism Agencies Regulation (Tourism Regulation). To obtain a Group A Tourism License the investor will first need to establish a capital company. Special clauses need to be included within the company’s articles of association, during the incorporation stage. It is highly advised that investors seek professional assistance.
Once the company is established, an application needs to be made to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the reservation of a tourism agency title. Proper selection of the agency title will be important to avoid unnecessary time consumption during the approval process. Once the application is approved by the Ministry and the agency title is reserved, a separate application will be made to TURSAB to obtain the Group A Tourism License.
Once the Tourism License is obtained, the company will need to proceed with the application for a Medical License (Health Tourism Certificate) to the Ministry of Health.
These applications are to be submitted to the relevant Provincial Directorate of Health where the company is located and are subject to a separate set of requirements. These requirements include signed protocols with different licensed medical facilities, infrastructure for a call centre and employment of qualified personnel.
Following the initial application, the ministry will inspect the company, office space and declared employees, to check and verify that the office space is suitable, the employees all have the necessary qualifications and are employed by the company, and that the company has the necessary technological infrastructure as well as the necessary equipment to efficiently manage applications from potential tourists.
Apart from the standard licenses required for a company to provide health tourism services in Turkey, any business that will operate in this field will also need to take care in the handling of personal data of patients who purchase services through them. This is important as any health tourism company will be handling and processing health data of patients, which is classified as sensitive personal data as per the Law on Personal Data Processing.