Government strategy for medical tourism helps hospitals in South Korea

 

While the governments of rival countries talk up medical tourism, few are so active and successful in assisting local hospitals and clinics as South Korea. The Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) estimates that number of foreign patients in South Korea will reach 130,000 for 2011.

The government is supporting the globalization of Korean medical institutions under the banner of Medical Korea, a brand campaign to promote South Korea's advanced medical services abroad. To guarantee the quality of the medical service and strengthen foreign patients' trust, the government has adopted a registry system for Korean medical institutions and agencies- over 2000 are now registered.

The government has also accelerated its support for foreign patients' convenience and safety by issuing medical treatment visas, operating an around-the-clock medical call centre and one-stop medical tourism service centres, establishing an arbitration body for medical disputes and helping train medical coordinators and interpreters.

Medical institutions also step up globalization to attract foreign patients. A growing number of medical institutions have been gaining accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI), the worldwide leader in improving the quality of health care. A total of 22 hospitals, including Severance Hospital, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, Korea University Anam Hospital and Ewha Womans University Medical Center, were accredited as of September 2011. 58 medical institutions have established overseas branches in 11 countries to promote the advanced technology and services offered by South Korea.

The health authority of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, has signed an agreement with Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, Seoul Asan Medical Center and Seoul Samsung Medical Center to have patients treated in Korea. The oil-rich country sends 130,000 people overseas for medical treatment each year at its own expense. In 2010 3000 patients from Abu Dhabi travelled to the United Kingdom, Germany, Thailand and Singapore for medical treatment, but only 54 went to Korea.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 81,789 foreign patients visited Korea for medical treatment in 2010; up 36 % on 2009.The government’s active promotion of medical tourism has led to the sharp increase. The total revenue from treating foreign patients nearly doubled to $88 million in 2010.

The number of foreign patients in 2010 was 64,777 outpatients and 11,653 for medical screening. The number of in-patients was 5359.By nationality; the majority of patients were from the USA, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia.14% had skincare-related treatment and cosmetic surgery while 13.5 % received internal medical treatment. Another 13.1 % visited medical checkup centers.43 went to local medical centres while 20.5 % opted for general hospitals, and 23.5 % chose clinics. With the popularity of Korean TV soaps, women in many Asian countries are saving up to get cosmetic surgery and skin care treatment in Korea.

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