South and Southeast Asia, and in particular Malaysia, are on track to see significant growth in medical travel and medical tourism over the next four years.
“There are around 450 hospitals in Asia that provide quality treatment at a very low cost,” said Sabyasachi Ghosh, manager of the healthcare department at Future Market Insights (FMI), in an email interview. Many of these hospitals are already accredited by the U.S. Joint Commission International (JCI), an important benchmark for many people who travel for medical care.
Ghosh says that Asian countries are working to build the infrastructure necessary to bring in foreign travelers. “There is an active push from governments to develop their cities as hubs of medical tourism, which is also a key driving factor,” he said.
An FMI report projects that the number of accredited facilities will increase by as much as 20 percent each year between now and 2020, fueling the flow of patients who travel across borders for medical care. The report predicts that Malaysia will become a market leader in the global medical tourism market between now and 2020, given its state-of-the-art medical infrastructure and affordable treatment options. “The current government in Malaysia is boosting medical tourism with the help of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council,” said Ghosh. “The government of Malaysia also provides ease of entry for medical tourists into Malaysia for treatment by offering extendable visas. The ministry of health closely monitors health and safety, hospital performance and outcomes. The government also provides tax incentives for private healthcare providers for accreditation, licensing and further expansion.”
FMI says that key players in the medical tourism industry currently include Apollo Hospitals (India), Asian Heart Institute (India), Fortis Healthcare Ltd. (India), Prince Court Medical Centre (Malaysia), KPJ Healthcare Berhad (Malaysia), Raffles Medical Group (Singapore), Gleneagles Hospital (Singapore), Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital (Thailand), Bangkok Hospital (Thailand), Wooridul Spine Hospital (Korea), Min-Sheng General Hospital (Taiwan), and Clemenceau Medical Centre (Lebanon).
Other key medical tourism facilities have highly productive collaborations with U.S. organizations. The report highlights Bumrungrad International Hospital (Thailand) and its partnership with IBM and its Watson computing platform for better cancer care, and Anadolu Medical Centre (Turkey), which has worked with Johns Hopkins Medicine on JCI-accreditation preparation, information technology consulting and clinical program development.
According to the Medical Tourism Association (MTA), 41 countries currently participate in the global medical tourism market. FMI’s report focuses on hospitals and other facilities that are affiliated with the MTA, and identifies lucrative medical tourism centers based on their geographical proximity (including travel time and convenience), cultural proximity (including language, religion and food), infrastructure, environment (including tourist attractions and facilities) and price for medical services.
Prominent countries for medical tourism currently include the U.S., Israel, Thailand, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Dubai, Singapore, Mexico, Poland, Canada and Malaysia. The top treatments people travel abroad for include cancer therapies, cardiovascular surgeries, orthopedic treatments, dentistry, cosmetic surgeries, reproductive treatments, and medical tests and scans.
FMI's full report, “Medical Tourism Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2014 - 2020,” will be issued in March 2017.
— Leslie Brokaw
Leslie Brokaw is a contributing editor at GHCi.