We will take a look at the best Asian destinations for health travel. This will provide a brief overview of what is available and provide a starting point for more in-depth research.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which has been allowed to maintain a high degree of autonomy in all internal matters such as the economy and culture. SAR has been pushing forward its standards for medical care since its century-long tenure as a British Crown colony. It has 12 QHA Trent accredited private hospitals in the UK, with several double accreditations with JCI. Costs are quite low, being kept at 20-23% of U.S. costs as a matter of government policy. A medical-government alliance has launched a concerted effort to increase the role of medical tourism in Hong Kong. Currently around 7% of patient beds are occupied by medical tourists, a percentage that is growing rapidly. Visas are not required for stays up to 180 days.
India is one of the main players in medical tourism, which welcomes over one million medical tourists per year in 2010. Unlike many countries, India offers a wide range of medical services, with particular attention to cardiac surgery, joint replacement, bone marrow transplants and other advanced procedures. Currently, 10 major hospitals in India have received JCI accreditation and the Indian government is actively encouraging international accreditation and improving medical infrastructure problems that currently hinder the growth rate of medical tourism. Medical costs in India are among the lowest in the world at 10-20% of US tariffs. The most populous democracy in the world, India has a healthy economy and includes a vast geographical and cultural diversity. Visas are required for entry, but are relatively easy to obtain.
Malaysia will soon welcome nearly one million medical tourists per year to its shores. The country is largely English-speaking and medical facilities are subject to a strong internal accreditation organization, the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health. In addition to national accreditation, many of Malaysia’s best hospitals also seek international accreditation. Medical facilities are largely concentrated in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in Asia. Medical costs on average about 25% of those in the United States, depending on a somewhat irregular exchange value for the ringgit. Medical services are expanding from their initial focus on cosmetic surgery to procedures for more serious ailments.
The Republic of the Philippines, made up of thousands of beautiful tropical islands, has grown as a destination for medical tourism by around 8% per year. There are close cultural, economic and political ties between the Philippines and the United States, which can increase the role of the Philippines as a destination for medical tourism. A substantial portion of American medical professionals were trained in the Philippines, reflecting a solid tradition of medical education and culture. The Philippine government has set a target to attract around 750,000 medical tourists per year, a target that seems soon within reach. Medical costs in the Philippines are on average around 20-25% of US prices.
Singapore is considered the best health system in Asia and one of the best in the world. For a long time an active destination for medical tourism (about one million medical tourists per year!), Providing medical services to international patients is the main goal of a partnership between government and multi-agency industry. Medical tourists come from all over Asia and from all over the world. Medical costs are not the lowest, averaging around a third of U.S. tariffs, but Singapore’s reputation as a clean, safe and cosmopolitan city-state where English is widely spoken makes additional spending worthwhile for many. A growing number of Singapore hospitals are receiving international accreditation, with over a dozen JCI accreditations as of 2006. A constant tropical rainforest climate makes Singapore a delight at any time of the year.
Thailand is perhaps the most active destination for medical tourism, which welcomes around two million medical tourists every year. A single hospital treated over 50,000 US patients in 2005 at an average cost of around 30% compared to the American medical system. Almost every medical procedure can be provided somewhere in Thailand. Although many Thai doctors and nurses are trained in the United States or the United Kingdom and have such professional certifications, the Thai government does not emphasize the role of international accreditation of their hospitals. However, some of the best private hospitals have obtained JCI accreditation.