The Kasikorn Research Center reports on the Thai economy. They say that medical tourism is fast becoming a key factor in boosting the country’s private hospitals, and a large proportion of the people having medical procedures there are international patients rather than locals. The one hundred million pounds or so generated by these foreign medical tourists every year is just the tip of the iceberg. Medical tourists also generate money for Thailand’s retail, tourism, hotels, and restaurant sectors.
The experts say overall revenue from international patients will grow as much as 12% in 2017, and the Thai government aims to push Thailand as a medical tourism hub to sustain this dramatic growth. At the same time, Malaysia is competing with Thailand for medical tourists, which may see Thailand eventually deciding to specialise in certain areas. It looks like medicine has gone global.
The majority of medical tourists to Thailand are from the USA, where treatment costs a fortune, and there’s no NHS. But increasing numbers of Brits are doing it too, to avoid long waiting lists at home. If you are thinking about seeking medical procedures abroad, in Thailand or elsewhere, how do you make the best decisions? Here’s some sensible advice.
Research medical tourism companies, destinations, hospitals and doctors
There are plenty of medical tourism companies online, set up to help people plan effectively. They charge a fee, but the best will be happy to give you a free consultation. Having said that, you can’t beat your own research, taking responsibility for your own choices about the best health tourism destinations, hospitals, and doctors.
The internet and social media are your best friends. You can check out websites and email or phone hospitals and doctors abroad to establish which suits you best. It’s also wise to check what people are saying about the hospitals you are interested in via social media. Ideally, you’ll want to get real feedback from people who have already done what you intend to do – if a hospital or doctor is unwilling to give you ex-patients’ contact details or put you in touch with people who will provide an honest review, back off.
Ask for doctors’ and surgeons’ CVs too – if they’re properly set up for medical tourists, they should provide these essential details automatically. And ask for any accreditations, since good hospitals serving international patients should be accredited by internationally recognised, respected and trusted healthcare organisations.
Bear in mind that many health tourism destinations are in tropical regions, so make sure the hotel and hospital you choose have good air conditioning systems. And choose a hospital where the people speak decent English so you can communicate properly.
If you’re having an operation abroad, you might not want to spend days travelling home. You might want to find a destination closer to Britain, with the shortest and most comfortable journey back. It makes sense to book your flight early, choosing a time of year that isn’t bang in the middle of the holiday season or a national holiday in the country you’re visiting.
Get the paperwork arranged in good time
You need a passport, of course. But what about other visas and permissions? Once you’ve chosen your destination, give yourself ample time to sort out your travel documents. It’s safest to leave at least eight weeks, since documentation can sometimes take time.
Which countries offer the best medical tourism?
According to the World Health Organisation Japan, Colombia, Costa Rica and Singapore offer better healthcare than the USA, making them a good choice. Thailand and Mexico are also rated highly for offering excellent facilities and expertise to foreign travellers, even though the facilities they provide for their own people may not be quite as good.
Arrange your travel vaccinations well in advance
It’s vital to arrange all the necessary travel vaccinations. Some vaccines come in two doses, which means it’s no good leaving it to the last minute. You will be particularly vulnerable post-operation, so don’t miss out on any of the vaccinations we recommend for the country you’re visiting.
Last but not least, make sure you take a copy of your medical records with you as well as emailing them to your doctor or surgeon in advance.