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Medical Tourism - The Growing Trend Continues

Posted on Aug 02, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa ()

The growing demand for private healthcare in buoyant Asian markets is highlighted by the Malaysian state owed Khazanah Nasional Berhad winning the battle to acquire Singapore's Parkway Holdings, against stiff competition from Indian based Fortis Healthcare. In 2009 Fortis Healthcare estimated the Indian healthcare market to be worth US$38 billion; this it is expected to rise to US$62.9 billion by 2014. Foreign nationals seeking healthcare treatment are being drawn to private Indian healthcare providers, as medical treatment can be offered at a fraction of the price compared to USA and European healthcare alternatives. The Indian medical industry has seen particular growth in recent years, taking full advantage of the demand for modern, high quality, medical treatment for patients throughout the world who require affordable treatment in internationally recognized hospitals. This is being driven by India's ability to rival other recognized sources of quality healthcare in the Asian region, such as Thailand and the Philippines, both in quality and cost. The position has now been reached where a procedure for a heart bypass can be conducted in a private Indian hospital for approximately US $10,000; compared with an Asian rival in Thailand or Singapore, where costs amount to between US $11,000 to $18,500 it can be immediately seen that the Indian Healthcare option is by far the more affordable. A similar treatment in the USA would cost approximately $130,000 well out of the range of most average patients to cover out-of-pocket. Patients in the United Kingdom, USA, Australia and Canada are often used to treatment by Indian medical professionals, who have been present in private and public healthcare facilities for many years in these countries due to the higher wage levels, and more comprehensive employment opportunities. This presence of Indian medical professionals in Western nations has given foreign patients confidence in seeking medical treatment in India. The Indian government is taking measures to ensure maximum potential by giving consideration to the provision of a visa to a patient and escort, with a possible extension for a three year period. This should ensure that patients traveling to India for the express purpose of receiving medical care have an easier time entering and exiting the country, in addition to ensuring that these same patients have the support they need from their escorts who have historically faced a challenge in entering the country to accompany someone seeking medical care. The medical tourism market in Asia initially arose in Singapore, with the island nation raising the bar for medical treatment by setting the standards to rival the US. Thailand and Malaysia followed suit with comprehensive medical tourism offerings catering to overseas patients. However, private healthcare in India emerging as the dominant provider in the region, and in more recent times, has become particularly aggressive in acquiring private healthcare facilities. However, countries such as Taiwan and South Korea are also taking measures to penetrate the private healthcare market with the objective of securing a slice of the business currently dominated by the four main Asian based suppliers. The South Korean government is taking steps to grow the medical tourism industry by offering a high standard of medical care to the Japanese market - especially in regards to cosmetic surgery, such as facelifts. The top Asian private healthcare providers in Singapore, India, Malaysia and Thailand are battling to increase their strength in the market. National healthcare providers in the West are burdened with increasingly aging populations which often require heightened levels of medical care. In a unique recent development, despite the fact that not all residents of first world nations have private healthcare insurance, in some cases the national health services in these countries are willing to fund procedures in Far East countries. Some North American and European countries are all considering such a plan if they do not currently have a similar proposal already in place. This key development will only serve to open up the private healthcare market in Asia, and as such more growth is forecast. Much of the demand for private healthcare in Asia comes from Africa and the Middle East, where the healthcare infrastructure is still lagging behind the rest of the world world. There is an increasing number of western patients seeking medical treatment in foreign private healthcare facilities, especially in India. India has emerged as a popular destination for western couples seeking treatment for medical procedures which would be prohibitively expensive in developed nations such as fertility treatment. Asian private healthcare providers can rival western nations with their quality-of-care, state-of-the-art treatment centers and highly trained medical professionals. These facilities enable them to take full advantage of the stagnant national healthcare systems in the UK, Canada, and the extraordinarily expensive procedures in the US. Asian private healthcare providers are looking to the US to increase their revenue and boost profits. For example, a patient in the US who requires a heart bypass, may need to pay US$ 130,000 for the procedure, while the same operation in a private hospital in Bangkok can cost in the region of US$30,000. A popular procedure for foreign nationals is hip replacements; increasing numbers of patients are seeking treatment in countries like Singapore, at a cost of US$ 12,000 or $9,000 in India, compared to US$43,000 in the USA. The aim of various Asian governments is to take full advantage of the growing profitable medical tourism market. The success experienced in this industry by countries like Singapore and Thailand has lead to governments of Taiwan and Malaysia offering private healthcare providers with high levels of support to encourage investment in the medical tourism sector. The Taiwanese Department of Health estimates the medical tourism industry will create 3, 860 jobs and generate US$ 342 billion worth of revenue by 2014. However, medical tourism has not been immune from the economic downturn; the renowned Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok reporting a 22 per cent decline in profits in 2009 from the highs of 2007. Medical tourism looks certain to continue its explosive advance throughout the Asia-Pacific Region; Singapore estimates the 1 million medical tourists entering the country generate US$1.6 billion annually. Malaysia is expected to increase its market share in the lucrative industry to approximately US $600 million over the next 5 years. The future of medical tourism in Asia is to focus on the American and European market. Its intention is to build confidence in the sector; offering patients' unrivaled value for money with medical procedures ranging from hip replacements to heart bypasses. As US insurance companies consider adding Asian private healthcare providers to their coverage, the medical tourism across the Asian regions looks certain to continue rapidly, expanding its reach to foreign patients. A typical average  price comparison, in terms of the costs of various operations, in India, Singapore, Thailand, and the USA can be seen below:
Procedure India Singapore Thailand USA
Heart Bypass 10000 185000 11000 130,000
Heart Valve Replacement 9000 125000 10000 160000
Angioplasty 11000 13000 13000 57000
Hip Replacement 9000 12000 12000 43000
Hysterectomy 3000 6000 4500 20000
Knee Replacement 40000 13000 10000 8500
Spinal Fusion 5500 9000 7000 62000
All figures are shown in US $ Companies mentioned: Parkway Holdings Limited Parkway Holdings Limited, is one of the region's leading providers of healthcare services, with a network of 16 hospitals with more than 3,400 beds throughout Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, India and China. Fortis Healthcare Limited Fortis Healthcare Fortis Healthcare Limited is a healthcare provider having a network of 28 hospitals, satellite centers and heart command centers with nearly 3,300 beds capacity. Khazanah Nasional Khazanah Nasional is the investment holding arm of the Government of Malaysia and is empowered as the Government's strategic investor in new industries and markets. Bumrungrad International The Group's principal activities are owning and operating hospitals. Its flagship hospital, Bumrungrad International, is a renowned medical centre attracting over 1 million patients annually and named one of the world's top ten international hospitals by Newsweek International. The Company also owns a businesses in real estate and anti-aging and functional medicine.
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