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            Medical Tourism to Thailand

            Search Thailand for
            Thailand is leading Asia as a medical tourism destination. Medical tourism in Thailand is booming; pushing other nations down the list. The number of medical tourists that come in Thailand has been steadily increasing since the early 2000's. This has resulted in the country taking its place on the top of the global medical tourism market.

            The main reasons that have enabled Thailand to dominate this growing market are:

            1. The low cost of medical treatment,
            2. The quality of treatment provided by private medical centers,
            3. And the highly developed tourism industry.

            Thailand's healthcare system

            There are over 1,000 hospitals in Thailand, of which over 470 are private facilities. The country takes pride in having the largest private hospital in Asia, as well as having the first Asian hospital to receive the ISO 9001 certification and JCI accreditation. To date, 37 hospitals in Thailand have been accredited by the JCI, all of them private.

            Thailand’s Medical tourism industry is largely driven by private hospitals. Thai doctors are attracted to the international hospitals as they can earn as much as 70% more than in the public hospitals.

            Leading the list of private hospitals are the Bumrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Group, and Samitivej Hospitals. These hospitals are widely becoming renowned globally. They are known to cater mostly to foreign patients and have been actively seeking medical tourists since the early 2000's. Around 30-50% of the patients in these hospitals are foreigners, due to the fact that, to a greater extent, they find the hospitals cheaper than their home countries. However, most Thais find the prices in these hospitals too high, as salaries in Thailand are low.

            Top Hospitals for Foreign Patients in Thailand

            • Bumrungrad International
              Bumrungrad International is known to have excellent facilities for medical tourists. The hospital has treated over 520,000 international patients, (including expatriates and medical tourists) from 190 countries worldwide (3). It attracts more foreign patients than any other hospital in the world. Over half of the hospital's 1,200 doctors have international training and/or board certification, including 200 who are US board certified.
            • Bangkok Hospitals Group
              The Bangkok Hospital Group is a leading group of hospitals with specialized services for overseas patients. It has a network of 15 hospitals scattered all over Thailand. The Bangkok International Hospital in Bangkok tops the list. It has an International Medical Center which caters especially for medical tourists, and is completely employed with multilingual interpreters. It even has a Japanese Medical Centre with Japanese speaking physicians and nurses.
            • Samitivej Hospitals
              The Samitivej Hospitals are a well known chain in Thailand. The group has expanded and developed world class healthcare facilities, including 3 JCI accredited hospitals. Samitivej Hospitals are equipped with advanced medical equipment that compares to the hospitals in the North America and Europe.
            • For more information about Thai hospitals, browse are list of hospitals for medical tourists in Thailand.

            Common Procedures done by Medical Tourists in Thailand

            The procedures medical tourists come to Thailand for varies diversely. Nevertheless, the popular treatments include the following:
            • Cosmetic / plastic surgeries
              Every aesthetic procedure in Thailand costs only a small fraction as compared to what patients in US and UK would pay back home. Yet, the standard of service and treatment is usually high.
            • Dental procedures
              From routine checkups to the most complicated dental surgeries, many Thai dental clinics and hospitals are well equipped and employed to execute a complete range of dental treatments. The costs are also comparatively low and the standards are international.
            • Medical check-up programs
              Medical check-up programs are a growing trend in the global medical tourism market. These programs are recommended for everyone, and the frequency would depend on the patient's age and condition. They are particularly recommended for patients in their 40's or 50's. Every major hospital in Thailand has inclusive check-up packages.
            • Cardiac procedures
              Many hospitals in Thailand, including the Bangkok Heart Hospital, have cardiac surgery centers. Procedures carried out in Thailand include heart bypass, angioplasty, and heart valve replacement, among others.
            • Orthopedic surgery
              Foreign patients fly Thailand to get different kinds of orthopedic procedures. Many orthopedic surgeons in Thailand have been trained overseas and equipment used for the procedures are assured to be modern and innovative, including the Computer Assisted Surgery (CAS) Micro Invasive Surgery (MAS). Common orthopedic surgeries that take place in Thailand are hip and knee replacement, as well as spine surgeries.
            • Infertility treatment
              Common procedures such as IVF, ICSI, IUI and PGD can be done in Thailand at significantly lower prices than in most developed countries.
            • Bariatric surgery
              Gastric Bypass, gastic banding (lab-band), etc.
            • Ophtamology and eye surgeries
              LASIK, Cataract surgeries, etc.

            Cost of Medical Treatment in Thailand

            Major surgeries

            Cost comparison of major surgeries between US and Thailand (in US$)
            From data provided by BusinessWeek.com (4)
            Procedure US Thailand
            Heart bypass 130,000 11,000
            Heart valve replacement 160,000 10,000
            Angioplasty 57,000 13,000
            Hip replacement 43,000 12,000
            Knee replacement 40,000 10,000
            Hysterectomy 20,000 4,500
            Spinal fusion 62,000 7,000
            Cosmetic and plastic procedures

            Cost comparison of cosmetic and plastic procedures between US and Thailand (in US$)
            Procedure US Thailand
            Breast augmentation 3,500-4,000 2,600-3,200
            Breast lift 4,000-4,500 2,600
            Breast reduction 4,000-4,500 2,900
            Buttock implant 4,000-5,000 4,000
            Buttock lift 4,000-5,000 2,400
            Cheek implant 2,000-2,500 1,200
            Chin augmentation 1,700-2,000 700
            Blepharoplasty 2,500-3,000 540
            Facelift 4,500-5,000 2,400
            Forehead lift 2,500-3,000 1,400
            Nose reshaping 3,500-4,000 1,200
            Liposuction 2,500-3,000 1,200
            Tummy tuck 4,500-5,500 3,000
            Vaginal rejuvenation 2,000-2,500 350-1,200
            Hair transplant 4,000-4,500 1,000-2,000
            Dental procedures

            Cost comparison of dental procedures between US and Thailand (in US$)
            Procedure US Thailand
            Cleaning 100-300 25-50
            Tooth whitening 800-1,200 100
            Tooth bleaching 350 - 500 150
            Single implant 3,500 2,000
            Amalgam filling 200-500 20
            Porcelain crown 600-1,000 300-470
            Ceramic crown 5,500 470-500
            Root canal treatment 500-2,000 150

            Pros

            Here are the main reasons why multitudes of foreigners seek medical treatment in Thailand.
            • Low cost of medical treatments

              The treatment costs in Thailand amount to only a fraction to that of their counterparts in most Western countries. The prices for treatment are usually between 20-50% lower than that of an equivalent treatment in the West. This low cost leaves the medical tourist a budget for recuperation and even recreation.
            • High quality healthcare services

              In recent years, Thailand's private sector has established a growing number of medical facilities that can be compared side by side with leading hospitals worldwide. The country has over 30 hospitals that cater to medical tourists, as well as numerous dental and cosmetic clinics and other medical and alternative medicine centers. Hospitals in Thailand that have the JCI accreditation amount to 8, and all hospitals in Thailand are licensed by the country's Ministry of Public Health.

              Physicians in Thailand are also highly educated and trained. Many of them hold professional certifications obtained in the US and/or Europe. In Bumrungrad for example, approximately 200 doctors are US board certified and 400 were trained in Western hospitals (5).
            • Highly developed tourism infrastructure

              Thailand is among the top holiday destinations in the world, being a paradise of inviting beaches and nature's best scenes. The country has a rich culture with a splendid cuisine, and people are friendly and accommodating to foreigners. If it were not for the integration of these tourism strengths to the medical service sector, the status of Thailand's medical tourism would not be so well developed. Being a major tourist destination, service is one of the top factors that contributed to the industry's success. Thai people strive to give their best in rendering services to their country's visitors. Whereas, foreigners are glad to receive the same quality of service be it in the hotel or in the hospital.

            Cons

            • Lack of primary healthcare system

              Despite the fact that many doctors in Thailand have studied and received training in the US or UK, most of them are specialists. Unfortunately, the healthcare system of Thailand relies heavily on specialized medicine. This means that common minor ailments or several medical problems all at once, are hard for a specialist to pinpoint. If an underlying symptom is unknown, general medicine or internists would be the best option.
            • Some doctors are employed part time

              There are doctors in Thailand, including physicians and surgeons in different specialties, who work under various hospitals. They tend to juggle schedules between different hospitals all over Thailand, sometimes even having their own private clinical services somewhere. When choosing a doctor or surgeon, make sure you know their schedule in advance, and demand to get the attention you need before paying the money. Comparatively though, doctors and medical staff in Thailand are much more attentive than doctors in the West.
            • Lack of emergency transport facilities

              While most hospitals have ambulatory services, there is still a lack of transport in case of emergency ‘call outs’. This specifically refers to air transport, as alternative to land transport in cases of heavy traffic or immediacy of need.

            Statistics of Thailand Medical Tourism

            Medical tourism in Thailand has increased dramatically in recent years. The official figures only state the number of international patients, but we estimate that 20% of those are medical tourists (1).
            Year Number of international
            patients
            Number of medical
            tourists (estimate)
            2008 1,500,000 300,000
            2007 1,400,000 280,000
            2006 1,000,000 200,000
            Medical tourists come to Thailand from almost every country in the world. The main sources for medical tourists in Thailand are:
            • Japan
            • Middle East
            • US
            • China
            • United Kingdom
            • Western Europe
            • Australia

            Information Sources:

            [1] Taiwan Institute of Economic Research - An Insight on Medical Tourism Sector Developments in Asian Countries
            [2] Business Week report - Top Medical Tourism Destinations
            [3] Bumrungrad International Annual Report 2008
            [4] Smart travel Asia - Medical tourism in Asia
            [5] Asia News Network - Thailand dominates global medical tourism market

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