Medical Tourism APAC and Middle East 2023: Legal, Ethical & Leadership Trends

July 17, 2023

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Medical tourism is gaining popularity among Americans, driven by factors such as high healthcare costs domestically and the availability of high-quality, cost-effective medical services abroad.

MarketsandMarkets’ analysts highlight the significant rise in medical tourism in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Middle East regions in 2023. Countries in these regions have been attracting medical tourists with their advanced medical facilities, skilled practitioners, and affordable healthcare services. The report also mentions the role of technology in enhancing medical tourism prospects, with advancements such as artificial intelligence, robotics, telemedicine, digital health records, and digital platforms and apps improving the overall patient experience and outcomes.

Which countries are lucrative medical tourism markets?

Several countries have emerged as lucrative markets for medical tourism due to their advanced healthcare facilities, skilled medical professionals, and cost-effective treatment options. Here are some of the key markets:

  1. India: Known for its high-quality healthcare services at affordable prices, India has become a popular destination for medical tourists. The country's medical tourism market is growing rapidly, with a surge in demand post-Covid-19. Companies like Healthtrip, which aggregates hospitals, cosmetic, and wellness clinics in India, have turned profitable due to the increased demand.
  2. Thailand: Thailand is renowned for its advanced healthcare facilities and services, particularly in areas like cosmetic surgery, dental work, and orthopedic surgery. The country's medical tourism industry has been growing at a steady pace, attracting patients from around the world.
  3. Malaysia: Malaysia is another popular destination for medical tourists, offering a wide range of medical services at affordable prices. The country's healthcare system is well-regarded, and it has a large number of internationally accredited hospitals.
  4. Turkey: Turkey has emerged as a major player in the medical tourism industry, particularly for procedures like hair transplants, plastic surgery, and eye surgery. The country's healthcare system is advanced, and it offers competitive prices compared to many Western countries.
  5. South Korea: South Korea is known for its advanced medical technology and high standards of care. The country has become a popular destination for medical tourists seeking cosmetic surgery and other medical procedures.
  6. Mexico: Mexico is a popular destination for medical tourists from the United States due to its proximity and affordable healthcare services. The country offers a wide range of medical procedures, including dental work, cosmetic surgery, and weight loss surgery.
  7. Singapore: Singapore is known for its high-quality healthcare system and advanced medical technology. The country attracts medical tourists from around the world, particularly for complex medical procedures.

These countries have been able to attract a significant number of medical tourists due to their high-quality healthcare services, advanced medical technology, and cost-effective treatment options.

Factors that form a growing medical tourism setup

Several factors contribute to the growth of a medical tourism setup:

  1. Quality of Healthcare: The quality of healthcare services is a primary factor that attracts medical tourists. This includes the availability of advanced medical technology, highly skilled medical professionals, and internationally accredited hospitals.
  2. Cost-Effectiveness: One of the main reasons patients travel for medical treatment is the cost. If the cost of healthcare in their home country is high, they might look for more affordable options abroad. Countries that can offer high-quality medical services at a lower cost have a competitive advantage in attracting medical tourists.
  3. Geographical Proximity: Countries that are geographically close to high-income countries with high healthcare costs have a natural advantage in attracting medical tourists. For example, Mexico and Costa Rica are popular medical tourism destinations for U.S. patients due to their proximity.
  4. Government Policies and Support: Governments can play a crucial role in promoting medical tourism by implementing favorable policies, providing infrastructure support, and promoting their healthcare services internationally.
  5. Travel and Visa Regulations: Ease of travel and lenient visa regulations can also contribute to the growth of medical tourism. Countries that offer visa-on-arrival or e-visas for medical tourists can attract more patients.
  6. Language and Cultural Compatibility: The ability to communicate effectively with healthcare providers is crucial for patients. Countries where English or the patient's native language is widely spoken have an advantage. Similarly, cultural compatibility can make the patient's experience more comfortable and stress-free.
  7. Post-Treatment Care and Recuperation Facilities: Availability of excellent post-treatment care and recuperation facilities like rehabilitation centers, spas, and wellness centers can also attract medical tourists. The opportunity to recover in a pleasant and relaxing environment can be a significant draw.
  8. Political Stability and Safety: Patients are more likely to choose destinations that are politically stable and safe. Countries with a stable political environment and low crime rates are more attractive to medical tourists.
  9. Availability of Specialized Treatments: Countries that offer specialized treatments or procedures that are not available or have long waiting times in the patient's home country can attract medical tourists. This can include advanced surgical procedures, alternative therapies, or experimental treatments.
  10. Reputation and Reviews: Positive reviews and a strong reputation can significantly influence a patient's decision to choose a particular destination for medical treatment. This can be influenced by success rates, patient testimonials, and international rankings of hospitals and healthcare systems.

Factors a tourist considers to select a medical tourism destination

Medical tourism, the practice of traveling to a foreign country for medical, cosmetic, or dental care, is influenced by a variety of factors. The decision to select a medical tourism destination is multifaceted, involving considerations about cost, quality of care, safety, and convenience. It's essential for potential medical tourists to conduct thorough research before making their decision.

  1. Cost-effectiveness of medical procedures or treatments: Medical tourism often offers significant cost savings compared to domestic healthcare. For instance, a heart bypass surgery that might cost over $100,000 in the US could cost between $7,000 and $15,000 in India, a saving of up to 85-90%.
  2. Reputation and accreditation of healthcare facilities: The reputation of healthcare facilities and their accreditation by international bodies like the Joint Commission International (JCI) play a crucial role in the decision-making process. For example, as of September 2021, India had 40 JCI-accredited healthcare facilities.
  3. Quality of healthcare services and medical expertise: High standards of care and the expertise of medical personnel are critical. Countries like Singapore, South Korea, India, and Thailand are home to many healthcare professionals who have gained their medical degrees and experience from renowned institutions worldwide.
  4. Accessibility and convenience of travel arrangements: The ease and convenience of modern travel, coupled with the added benefit of getting a vacation during the recovery period, make medical tourism an attractive option.
  5. Safety and security of the destination: The safety of the destination country is a significant concern. Countries with stable political environments and low crime rates are preferred.
  6. Language proficiency and communication with healthcare professionals: Communication is integral in healthcare. Language proficiency of healthcare professionals and the availability of translation services can greatly influence the choice of destination.
  7. Availability of post-treatment care and follow-up services: The availability of follow-up services and continuity of care, facilitated by telemedicine and digital health records, are important considerations.
  8. Cultural and recreational opportunities during the recovery period: The opportunity to experience a new culture and enjoy recreational activities during the recovery period can be a draw for medical tourists.
  9. Recommendations and referrals from previous patients: Word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews from previous patients can significantly influence the choice of destination.
  10. Insurance coverage and reimbursement options: The extent of insurance coverage for overseas treatments and the availability of reimbursement options are key factors. Many health insurance plans do not cover overseas treatments, resulting in substantial out-of-pocket expenses.

5 examples of a medical tourism package

Medical tourism packages are designed to provide a comprehensive solution for patients seeking medical treatment abroad. These packages typically include medical procedures or treatments, accommodation, transportation, and sometimes even recreational activities for recovery periods. Here are some examples of medical tourism packages:

  1. Cosmetic Surgery Package: This package includes procedures like breast augmentation, facelift, liposuction, and rhinoplasty. It also covers accommodation, transportation, and post-operative care.
  2. Dental Tourism Package: This package offers dental treatments such as dental implants, veneers, and teeth whitening. It also includes hotel stay, airport transfers, and local tourism activities.
  3. Fertility Treatment Package: This package covers services like in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, and surrogacy. It includes medical consultations, fertility procedures, accommodation, and travel arrangements.
  4. Orthopedic Surgery Package: This package includes joint replacement surgeries (e.g., knee or hip), spinal surgeries, or sports medicine procedures. It also includes pre-operative evaluations, surgery, rehabilitation, and recovery support.
  5. Wellness Retreat Package: This package provides a combination of medical treatments, wellness therapies, and relaxation activities, such as detox programs, rejuvenation treatments, yoga retreats, and spa services. These packages are often tailored to the individual's needs and can include a variety of services, from medical consultations and treatments to accommodation and recreational activities.

Each of these packages is designed to provide a seamless experience for the patient, from the initial consultation and treatment to recovery and follow-up care. They also often include additional services to enhance the patient's experience, such as language translation services, assistance with travel arrangements, and access to local tourism activities.

List of Top companies in Medical Tourism

Top Medical Tourism Providers in APAC

  1. Bumrungrad International Hospital
    • Services: Offers a wide range of medical services and treatments including cardiology, orthopedics, oncology, and more.
    • Year Founded: 1980
    • Headquartered: Bangkok, Thailand

  2. Bangkok Hospital
    • Services: Provides comprehensive healthcare services, including diagnostics, treatment, and rehabilitation.
    • Year Founded: 1972
    • Headquartered: Bangkok, Thailand

  3. Apollo Hospitals
    • Founder: Dr. Prathap C Reddy
    • Services: Offers a broad spectrum of healthcare services including diagnostics, medical, surgical and other services.
    • Year Founded: 1983
    • Headquartered: Chennai, India
    • Revenue: $1.6 billion (2020)

  4. Fortis Healthcare
    • Founder: Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Mohan Singh
    • Services: Provides a range of medical and surgical services across various specialties.
    • Year Founded: 2001
    • Headquartered: Gurgaon, India
    • Revenue: $1.2 billion (2020)

  5. Gleneagles Hospital
    • Services: Offers a wide range of medical services including cardiology, liver transplant, gastroenterology, and more.
    • Year Founded: 1959
    • Headquartered: Singapore

Top Medical Tourism Providers in the Middle East

  1. American Hospital Dubai
    • Services: Provides a comprehensive range of healthcare services.
    • Year Founded: 1996
    • Headquartered: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Mediclinic Middle East
    • Services: Offers a comprehensive range of medical services and treatments.
    • Year Founded: 2006
    • Headquartered: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Saudi German Hospital
    • Services: Provides a wide range of medical services including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, and more.
    • Year Founded: 1988
    • Headquartered: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

  4. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi
    • Services: Offers a wide range of medical services and treatments.
    • Year Founded: 2015
    • Headquartered: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre
    • Services: Provides a comprehensive range of healthcare services.
    • Year Founded: 1975
    • Headquartered: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Top Medical Tourism Providers in Canada

  1. American Medical Care
    • Services: Provides a range of medical services including bariatric surgery, cancer treatment, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, and more.
    • Headquartered: Edmonton, Canada

  2. MediBliss Tours
    • Services: A medical tourism facilitator in Canada that arranges medical treatments overseas through personalized tour packages.
    • Headquartered: Canada

  3. Global Healthcare Connections
    • Services: Connects patients to needed medical and dental specialties worldwide.
    • Headquartered: Canada

  4. Timely Medical Alternatives
    • Services: Helps patients find private surgical and medical treatment options, integrative cancer treatment, clinical trials, and cutting-edge health innovation.
    • Year Founded: 2003
    • Headquartered: Canada

  5. Health Vantis
    • Services: Provides medical travel facilitation services, connecting Canadians to affordable, timely, and quality private medical procedures in the US.
    • Headquartered: Halifax, Canada

These are some of the top companies in the medical tourism industry, providing a wide range of healthcare services and attracting patients from around the world. Each company has its unique strengths and offerings, catering to different medical needs and preferences.

What are the legal and ethical considerations in the medical tourism industry?

While medical tourism offers significant opportunities for cost savings and access to high-quality care, it also presents unique legal and ethical challenges. Both patients and providers must navigate these considerations carefully to ensure that the benefits of medical tourism are realized while minimizing potential risks and harms.

Legal Considerations:

Medical tourism can involve complex legal issues, particularly around liability and malpractice. Laws and regulations governing healthcare vary significantly across countries, and patients may find it challenging to seek legal recourse in case of medical negligence or malpractice. Additionally, the transfer of medical records across borders can raise privacy and data protection concerns.

Ethical Considerations:

Ethical considerations in medical tourism often revolve around the quality of care and the potential for exploitation. There may be disparities in the standard of care provided to local patients versus international patients, which raises questions about equity and justice. Furthermore, the commercialization of healthcare can potentially lead to the commodification of the human body, particularly in the context of organ transplants or surrogacy.

Balancing Legal and Ethical Considerations:

Balancing these considerations requires a comprehensive approach that includes transparent communication, thorough patient education, and robust legal contracts. Patients should be fully informed about the potential risks and benefits of their treatment options, and providers should ensure that they adhere to the highest ethical standards. Furthermore, legal agreements should clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved, providing a framework for resolving any disputes that may arise.

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