Developments in Asia medical tourism


Malaysia expects record medical tourism revenue, Cambodia targets Australian dental tourists, Sri Lanka considers specialist medical tourism and South Korea plans a medical tourism zone.

The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) expects the medical tourism industry to record RM630 million revenue this year, up from RM584 million last year.

Dr Mary Wong Lai Lin of MHTC explains, “The number of foreign patients has increased year by year, and last year we had 671,000 patients, an increase from the 583,000 patients recorded in 2011.We believe this year, the medical tourism industry will continue to grow and we expect some 700,000 foreign patients. Foreign patients continue to choose Malaysia for medical treatment as the government regulates the country’s medical tourism industry and the hospitals are well equipped with the latest technology and facilities. Patients are from Indonesia, India, Japan, China, UK, US, Australia, Bangladesh, Libya and Nepal.”

Australia has some of the most expensive dental treatment in the world and for years many Australians have gone to Thailand looking for high quality dental work at a fraction of the costs. Now Cambodia is joining in. An Australia resident in the city has formed a company specializing in taking Australians to the city for dental work. Michael Howard has set up an agency called Kingdom and Crowns.

A root canal and a crown at Roomchang Hospital in Phnom Penh will cost around $700 whereas the same work in Australia would be up to $3,000. The first Australians are due to start arriving in the city this winter. This is potentially an enormous market for Cambodia as Cambodian prices are slightly cheaper than Thailand and of good quality. Roomchang Hospital has a foreign patient ratio of 40%. 10% of their patients have traveled to Cambodia specifically for medical care. It is expected that that number will increase significantly. The dental clinic was the first in the country to achieve ISO 9001-2008 certification.

Although the government of Sri Lanka has made it clear that they do not want to encourage medical tourism as there is no spare capacity, but will promote local specialities in alternative therapies, natural and wellness offerings. A local doctor is keen to get them to agree to specialist ear transplant surgery.

Dr. Devanand Jha of Lanka Hospitals explains, “Sri Lanka bears a potential in becoming a hub for medical tourism, particularly in the area of cochlear implants. 96 cochlear implants have been done in the hospital. The cost of surgery in Sri Lanka is attractive, with ample resources and technology available in the country.” Post therapy is a key requirement in the procedure, where speech and language therapists use auditory verbal therapy. This vital need for post-operative therapy would limit the potential to places where such therapy is available locally, as it would not be practical to fly to Sri Lanka.

Seoul City, the capital of South Korea, plans to establish a special medical zone where tourists can enjoy specialized and concentrated medical services. Seoul’s Jung-gu District Office has filed a formal request to designate a downtown area of 560,000 square meters as a medical tourism zone.

From September South Korea is relaxing visa restrictions for travelers from China and Southeast Asian countries. The issuance of multiple visas for Chinese nationals will be increased, and one-year visas will be available for Southeast Asian travelers who have visited South Korea at least once — with three- and five-year visa options possible for those with multiple past visits. Currently, only three one-year visas have been given to Southeast Asian tourists visiting the country multiple times in the past two years.

The South Korean ministry also plans to expand the amount of visas available for foreign patients visiting government-approved hospitals.



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