Posted on Jan 19, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa
As the Asian medical tourism continues to grow, the Philippines' government has announced action to help in the country's bid to secure a bigger share of this lucrative industry.
While a number of Asian countries are positioning themselves to take advantage of the booming medical tourism industry - which is currently dominated by India, Thailand and Singapore - the Philippines is preparing to introduce a new visa, which will allow foreign nationals to stay in the Philippines for up to six months while receiving medical treatment.
The proposed new medical visa for the Philippines is being overseen by the country's Bureau of Immigration and will mean foreigners seeking medical treatment are permitted to stay in the country for up to six months without needing to apply for a visa extension, which would normally be required by tourists to stay for that length of time.
Currently, visitors to the Philippines wishing to stay in the country for a prolonged period of time are required to secure an Alien Certificate of Registration or identity card (I-Card) to enable an application for a visa extension to be approved. The new medical visa is designed to simplify the visa process and incentivise people requiring medical treatment to use the facilities available in the Philippines.
The new medical visa requirement will help the medical tourism industry in the Philippines to become more competitive in the Asia-Pacific region, with the potential to secure an increased slice of the market. The Philippine government has been promoting the medical tourism sector
in the country since 2004 - through the Philippine Medical Tourism Program (PMTP) - and has strongly promoted the healthcare system by focusing on the country's internationally trained doctors and English-speaking healthcare professionals.
The Philippines, along with its Asian rivals in the medical tourism industry, is able to provide medical and surgical treatments to foreign nationals at significantly lower prices compared to treatment in Europe and the United States. In addition to offering a cost effective solution to medical treatments and procedures, Asian countries such as the Philippines, are able to provide modern, sophisticated, privately run facilities staffed by highly trained healthcare professionals.
While India, Thailand and Singapore are currently the major players in the medical tourism industry, other Asian countries have been jockeying for a greater share of the growing medical tourism market. In addition to the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia have been stepping up efforts to appeal to more medical tourists.
Taiwan has been heavily marketing its tourism industry, particularly to the Chinese, seeking to capitalize on its high standard of private healthcare and closeness to the growing affluent population on the mainland. South Korea is aiming its medical tourism sector towards Japanese patients seeking better value medical and surgical treatments. Malaysia is promoting its private medical sector, emphasizing the country's Islamic roots to target clients of Middle Eastern origin. In general, all the Asian countries are driving to promote their specific facilities available for medical tourists, with Europeans and Americans seen as the key targets.
India, Thailand and Singapore have been building their medical tourism industries over a number of years, developing a reputation for quality and affordable private healthcare. Facilities such as the Bumrungrad
and Bangkok International
private hospitals in Bangkok have established themselves on the global stage as highly regarded international medical and surgical treatment centres. The Fortis Healthcare
private hospital group has been establishing itself across Asia to take advantage of the demand for private healthcare in domestic and international markets.
In addition to competition within Asian countries for medical tourists, Dubai has established a medical tourist hub for the middle-eastern region
. The construction of the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) provides cutting edge healthcare facilities, which can cater for medical tourists although prices charged are more expensive than those available in Asian countries.
The Asian medical tourism industry is forecast to boom in the coming years, with an estimated total value of US$100 billion annually by 2012. Although India, Thailand and Singapore have gained an early advantage in establishing their private healthcare sector on a global stage, these countries are set to face increased competition from emerging countries now offering medical tourism facilities. The Philippines initiative to ease visa requirements for medical tourists is a step in this direction.
The medical tourist industry in Asia is being driven by clients seeking treatment in state-of-the-art medical facilities resourced by well trained, expert doctors and healthcare professionals. This is coupled with the facilities being located in a desirable, attractive region of the world, with medical costs which are only a fraction of the price of those in the USA and Europe.
Also, the future of the medical tourism industry may benefit further from healthcare reforms currently being developed in western hemisphere countries, as these countries seek to tackle rising medical costs. These healthcare reforms could lead to more patients from countries such as the UK seeking treatment in Asia due to the state funded National Health Service (NHS) deeming a medical procedure to be non-essential and unavailable through the free-of-charge system.
Fortis Healthcare Limited
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.
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.