Rosy future for Turkish medical tourism


The cost of receiving medical care in Turkey is so low that it is attracting foreign patients. A surgery that would cost 5,000 euros (US$6,292) in many European countries can cost as little as 500 euros (US$657) in Turkey.

Europeans’ wallets have shrunk as a result of the global economic crisis, pushing them to seek ways to lower their medical costs. That search has put Turkey on the map as a popular destination for those wanting lower-cost healthcare.

One thing that also plays to Turkey’s favour is its high standards in medical care as no less than 24 hospitals and clinics have JCI status, more than in almost every EU country.

In 2007, the number of foreign patients in Turkey was 150,000. Last year, the number of foreigners treated in Turkey increased by 40 percent to 200,000. Dr Dursun Aydın, president of the Association of Improving Health Tourism (AIHT), said: "Europeans prefer Turkey mostly for cosmetic surgery, invitro fertilization, dental treatment and laser eye surgery. The technology used in Turkey is just as developed as European technology and our doctors are also very successful."

AIHT was founded in 2005 and consists of members from health and tourism sectors. In 2008, it printed 5,000 copies of a planned annual health tourism guidebook. The book included details of all hospitals, clinics and others in the health tourism sector in Turkey. The free 160-page guidebook is available in both Turkish and English, and has the support of the Ministry of Health and The Ministry of Culture and Tourism. =

Turkey mostly receives patients from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium and France. There has also been an increase in Middle Eastern patients who have begun to prefer Turkey to Europe. Currently Turkey’s medical tourism market is worth around US$500 million, and it has the potential for many times that.

Hospitals gravitating toward health tourism have been quite happy with the growing business and they foresee 2009 to be even brighter than last year.

Dr Hasan Kus of Anadolu Health Centre noted: “ We treated 570 foreign patients in 2007. That figure rose to 1,102 last year. Nearly 30 foreign patients a day visit our hospital. Most of our foreign customers are from Romania, Kosovo, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Russia and Bulgaria. Most of them are here for treatments in medical oncology, radiation oncology, brain surgery and orthopaedics. Cosmetic surgery, in- vitro fertilization and dental treatment are also in high demand."

At the Acıbadem Healthcare Group, which saw at least a doubling of numbers in 2008, Meri Bahar added: "Many foreigners find Turkey attractive both for its lower medical costs and the quality of the health care they receive. Medical tourism in the country is growing like a snowball."

The World Eye Group receives 2,000 foreign patients every month, according to Selin Peker. “The number of foreign patients has increased 20 percent since October.” Most are from Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.”  



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