Turkey needs to grab a bigger share of medical tourism


A new report from Turkey's top business association says the country should seek a bigger share of the fast developing medical tourism industry.  Doctor Erdal Karamercan of the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD), says Turkey should become a strong alternative for international medical tourism, one of the fastest developing sectors in the world. He argues that the Turkish private health sector is able to handle international competition in terms of hospital infrastructure, staff experience, and technology. Six authors wrote “ Medical Tourism-a new window of opportunity for Turkey”, for TUSIAD.

Private healthcare in Turkey is excellent, so much so that many people now visit purely for medical tourism; to take advantage of cosmetic, dental and major surgical treatments on offer at substantially lower costs. More than 30 Turkish hospitals and clinics have JCI accreditation.

Karamercan adds, "In these times when the health sector is growing rapidly in our country, Turkey should become a strong alternative for international medical tourism. Transforming Turkey into a strong brand in medical tourism and receiving a maximum share from the global demand is essential. It is not only important in terms of economic gain but also for development of health services offered to our society. The state, private sector and civil society should prepare and act upon a realistic strategy toward this goal. We need a programme that can turn our qualities such as high technology, qualified health services, work force standards and accessibility into advantages in competition."

The new report not only emphasises the importance of the subject but also offers suggestions on establishing collaborations and legal adjustments. Turkey is the 11th most visited tourism destination in the world. In 2008, 31 million foreigners visited Turkey and the number of tourists has increased 33 percent over the last two years.
Meri Bahar, of Acibadem Healthcare, the head of the group that prepared the study says 30,000 to 40,000 people come to Turkey each year as medical tourists. This is a lot lower than previous guestimates of around 200,000. According to Bahar, Turkey's goal should be 1 million patients by 2020.

Investment has poured into Turkey’s private hospitals in recent years. But some groups see the best prospects for growth in tapping international markets. Russians account for about a third of leading health group Acibadem’s non-Turkish clients. Similar numbers come from the Middle East, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and the group is actively marketing its services to doctors in Balkan and Central Asian countries that have cultural ties to Turkey, and easy flight connections. Foreign patients are expected eventually to fill 10 to 15 per cent of beds in Acibadem’s new hospital in Istanbul’s Maslak district.

Between Europe and the Near East, Turkey has much to offer in terms of world-class health tourism treatment, state-of-the-art facilities, and highly skilled, western trained physicians. The cost of medical care in Turkey is competitive. One target market is the 5 million expatriate Turks living in the EU.



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