Thailand has well positioned itself to become the medical hub of Asia, with more than four hundred hospitals offering the most advanced treatments by an internationally trained medical staff. The country boasts the largest hospital in Southeast Asia and the first ever to receive ISO 9001 certification, and the first hospital in Asia to be granted the prestigious Joint Commission International Accreditation (JCIA).

In 2005, the number of foreign patients arriving in Thailand, so-called medical tourists, topped one million and reached 1.4 million in 2006. The country has set a target of 2 million medical tourists by the year 2010. With millions of people without health insurance in some countries, or those just seeking the best service and care available, medical tourism continues to be a growth industry for Thailand. The annual growth rate for the sector has been 14%, with major surgical procedures increasing, as well as those seeking standard medical care. Thai Airways has taken medical tourism one step further by packaging medical check-ups as part of its Royal Orchid Holidays program.

Recognizing the available market and the country’s ability to deliver medical treatment at international standards, in 2004 Thailand’s government adopted a five-year strategic plan to develop the country’s capacity into the “Center of Excellent Health of Asia”.

This strategic plan, advanced by the Ministry of Public Health, focuses on three main areas of healthcare: medical services, healthcare services, which includes spas, traditional massage and long-stay healthcare products and services, and third is Thai herbal products.

There is a serious commitment on behalf of healthcare providers and the government to ensure that international standards are met. “More recently, hospitals in Thailand have opted to also apply for Joint Commission International (JCI accreditation, which is the international accreditation arm of the U.S. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)”, says Mr. Denis Meseroll of Asset Management Systems (Thailand), a company that provides healthcare management services.

Skyrocketing costs of healthcare in many western countries, along with overloaded medical facilities in many others, has added great attraction to Thailand’s high quality low cost medical service industry. For example, elective surgery in Thailand’s best private hospitals is often one tenth the cost of the same procedure if performed in the United States. With the value of OECD nations’ health care sector having been estimated to be as high as US$3 trillion and the United States at US$ 2 trillion, the potential for Thailand is significant.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and BlueChoice of South Carolina, US based healthcare insurance providers, have formed an alliance with one of Bangkok’s premier hospitals to promote medical tourism to its 1.3 million members.

In addition to the cost saving, there is also the added benefit that treatment and aftercare services are often performed in resort like settings, with a level of hospitality not found in other of the world’s medical centers. Doctors are experts in their fields and nurses are registered and well trained. But beyond the medical attraction, patients are treated to personal service characterized by Thailand’s excellence. Patients are not left to linger in hospital waiting rooms for hours, left unattended and uninformed. Some hospitals will even assign patients a personal assistant who will walk them through the entire process from the front door, to their appointment with the doctor, to the onsite pharmacy to fill prescriptions, and to clearing all receipts for insurance reimbursement. Patients are kept informed throughout their stay. In fact one of Bangkok’s premier hospital facilities boasts a staff of doctors that can speak English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hainan, Arabic, Urdu and others, and has 60 interpreters on its staff. While another has interpreters in over two dozen languages, all in order to facilitate the increasing numbers of international patients. And many of the country’s hospitals have the most advanced medical equipment, including one which recently purchased the MRI 3 Tesla, the first in Asia, which offers better diagnosis without injection of contrast media.

While Thailand excels in the medical care it delivers on a daily basis to patients from over 190 countries, the Kingdom is also gaining recognition as a location for research and for clinical trials of advanced medicine and for stem cell treatments. Thailand is investing in research and development for tropical diseases, such as dengue fever and malaria, among others; areas wide open for further investment.

With the exponential growth of Thailand into becoming a medical hub in the region, considerable opportunities in related fields are being created. The medical device sector, for one, will continue to see healthy growth to meet the demands of healthcare facilities for new and upgraded medical machinery and devices. Thailand’s healthcare industry is truly growing in leaps and bounds.

Source: Source: from BOI Investment Review

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