Health and Wellness Tourism in the Developing World

Health and wellness tourism in many parts of the developing world is becoming increasingly popular as patients search for ways to find more affordable health care. When a diabetic American, Jamie Johnson, was touring Malaysia, she suddenly developed an ankle infection that damaged her kidneys. She was flown to Bangkok, Thailand, for treatment.

Medical Tourism in Bangkok, Thailand

Jamie was treated at Bumrungrad International hospital, Asia’s first internationally accredited hospital which is replete with highly specialized doctors and modern facilities. Last year 400,000 foreign patients from over 150 countries visited it for treatments ranging from heart operations to hip surgeries. The hospital is now building an 18-story outpatient center to better accommodate the inflow of foreign patients.

Why Opt for Health and Wellness Tourism in the Developing World?

What draws these patients from abroad is the combination of luxurious care and world-class medical treatment through medical tourism at rupee and baht prices. Ruben Toral, Bumrungrad International Hospital’s marketing director says, “We deliver the one thing that people want in health care but don’t expect to get—service.” As 75% of the hospital expenses are footed by the patients themselves, insurance companies have little say in the treatment. Low labor costs also translate to more staff in Thai hospitals.

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Where Medical Tourism Thrives

According to the OECD, Americans spent 16% GDP on medical care last year. Due to their countries’ high medical costs, more than 150,000 Europeans and North Americans are choosing health and wellness tourism in the developing (and developed) world each year. India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand are preferred countries for many invasive surgeries. The Apollo Hospitals in India treat patients from America, Europe, and the Gulf countries regularly. They partner with luxury hotels for medical tourism post-operative care. Within six months of commencing operations, United Group Programs, a health insurer in Boca Raton, Florida, has forty business corporations signed up for health and wellness tourism in the distant parts of the world for their employees. They can save 80% of the cost per employee this way. Abacas International, a travel facilitator, estimates that Asian medical tourism will generate $4.4 billion by 2012.

Source: Joe Cochrane, “Medical Meccas,” Newsweek International, October 30

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