Medical tourism 'soaring' in Southeast Asia

13 February, 2015

A number of countries in Southeast Asia continue to witness a boom in medical tourism, as affordable healthcare for foreign visitors is being actively promoted by governments in the region, according to an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Jennifer Ryan, GlobalData's Analyst covering Medical Devices, states that while medical tourism was once the preserve of affluent patients seeking elective or cosmetic procedures, it is now a burgeoning industry and major source of revenue for select countries.

Ryan explains: "These countries' governments are allocating money and resources to training healthcare professionals, as well as top-of-the-line facilities and devices. Some hospitals have even partnered with particular hotels to provide a full package to patients from abroad.

"Numerous websites exist to help patients plan their trips, with information on everything from hospital and hotel stays to restaurant and sightseeing recommendations, as patients can enjoy a relaxing post-treatment vacation without having to travel any further."

High-quality care in Malaysia

The analyst cites Malaysia as a prime example of this phenomenon, noting that in 2012 alone, the country saw over 670,000 patients from abroad and expected more than 770,000 foreign patients in 2013, an increase of 14.9 per cent.

Ryan continues: "In countries such as Malaysia, government backing of the medical tourism industry ensures high-quality care for foreign patients, as well as accredited facilities and enforced safety standards.

"By offering a wide range of treatments, in areas from cardiology to orthopedics and fertility treatments, Malaysian hospitals and healthcare professionals are able to provide comparable care at a fraction of the cost otherwise available to a patient."

Despite these incentives, there are potential drawbacks to medical tourism, including economic issues and patient complications.

The analyst concludes: "With an emphasis on attracting patients from abroad, residents of the destination country may not receive the same level of care as foreign travelers. Meanwhile, medical tourists may encounter complications ranging from deep vein thrombosis to counterfeit medicine and country-specific antibiotic resistance.

"However, the medical tourism industry is on the rise, and participating countries provide many safe, affordable options to patients from around the world, allowing countries such as Malaysia to prosper accordingly."