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BREAKING NEWS
Source: Thailand Medical News  Nov 12, 2019
Thailand Medical Tourism Industry On A Downward Path
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Thailand Medical Tourism Industry On A Downward Path
Source: Thailand Medical News  Nov 12, 2019
Despite articles from pathetic media sites famous for spewing out fake news to generate revenue through ads and paid content and also certain government agencies staff who are desperately trying to maintain their jobs although being incompetent, properly collated figures are indicating that Thailand’s medical tourism industry is actually taking a dive.

In 2018, there were roughly only 302,270 medical tourists versus 375,655 medical tourists in 2017. (Figures for 2019 are not yet available but many private hospitals are reporting that figures are much worse than 2018). In this article a medical tourist is classified as a foreigner holding a tourist visa who comes in to Thailand for a medical procedure. A medical procedure can include even simple dental procedures to simple health checkups at any licensed clinic or hospital to even more complex medical procedures such as heart surgeries etc. Expats, ie those on retirement visas, foreigners working in Thailand on work permits, foreign students and also foreigners on marriage visas are not classified as medical tourists in this article. (A foreign tourist who enters a hospital or clinic for more than once is simply counted as one medical tourists and not the number of times he goes to the hospital within the period of his visa. Also spa visits are not counted as medical procedures. We are not able to get a reliable value of the worth of this industry just yet for the years 2017 and 2018 as data is not properly collated in a proper manner and most agencies simply like to spew inflated figures that cannot be correlated.We do not consider rehab services as part of medical tourism as almosts 95 per cent oll these centres in Thailand are illegally run and are not licensed.)

A bulk of Thailand’s medical tourists come from countries like the Middle East (58%) including countries like UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Iran, Jordan and even Turkey.

Surprisingly, countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and also contribute a huge amount medical tourists ie 3%, 6%, 3% and 4% respectively.

Singaporean and Malaysian medical tourists basically come into Thailand for simple dental procedures and simple aesthetic procedures. (together they constitute about 10 percent of medical tourists)

Believe it or note, the Chinese constitutes a very low percentage contributing to medical tourism ie only about 5% and most of the time is only simple outpatient services and so are the British ie about 4%. (It is also interesting to note that most British and Australians come only for aesthetic procedures or transgender reassignments surgery!) Interesting to note that most Chinese would travel to either Singapore or Malaysia for major medical procedures, when considering the Asian region only.)

The Middle Eastern, Bangladeshis, Burmese, Vietnamese basically come to Thailand for serious medical treatments and procedures and are the highest paying medical tourists. They come for cancer treatments, cardiovascular issues and surgeries, diabetes related complications including kidney diseases and for rare pediatric illnesses. (Cardiovascular, Diabetic Complications and Kidney disease represents about 51% of all cases, cancer represent about 26 % of all cases.)

Most of the rest of the medical tourists coming to Thailand, go for aesthetic procedures including plastic surgeries and also dental procedures.

Fertily treatments accounts for about 6 per cent of total medical procedures with Singaporeans, Malaysians, Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Indonesians accounting for the bulk of patients. 

Interestingly, of the total medical tourism market for 2018, we had about 1.5 per cent coming in for non-approved stem cell protocols done in licensed clinic and hospitals settings, and of these about 42 per cent were Japanese men.The stem cells were for unapproved  treatment protocols for arthritis and anti-aging issues.

The drop in Medical tourists to Thailand has been due to a few reasons. Firstly, Thailand’s currency, its Thai baht is simply too strong and people are seeing that its now cheaper to go to other destinations for medical tourisms in Asia such as Malaysia, India and also Singapore.

Vietnam healthcare industry is also fast catching up with lots of Singaporeans and Malaysians shifting and going to Vietnam for dental and aesthetic procedures, that is fast catching up . Currently 1 US dollar is about 30.3 Thai baht but greedy banks, exchanges and credit and debit cards are charging rates that hover around 29 to 28 Thai baht which is making it unattractive for many prospective patients.

Despite the Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Boards victory about drug price controls in private hospitals, unknown to most people, many private hospitals have over the last few months increased various prices of its services. Almost all the private hospitals in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket have raised their room rates by between 18 to 35%! while many have started including new service charges and also medical procedure rates have been increased across the board by between 5 to 37%! Not only are local patients affected but even foreigners and also medical tourists!  For foreign medical tourists to Thailand, this is becoming an issue as besides the increased rates, they are charged additional fees by unregulated medical tourism agencies and brokers or online sites. Currently almost all of the medical tourisms sites online do not display the latest price comparisons of medical procedures versus other countries and also in many cases, additional surcharges are not reflected. (Thailand Medical News is creating a new site : www.medicaltourism.news  which will be ready by December end and will reflect full actual costs of various medical procedures in various countries and hospitals.)

Another factor that many are ignoring and not seeing the moment, is that many of these countries that have been feeding Thailand with medical tourists from the middle east are now embarking on extensive programmes to improve its one healthcare and medical services and also get into the medical tourisms industry. Hence you see countries like UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and also Saudi Arabia now investing heavily in their own medical and healthcare industries and also we have now world famous hospitals like Cleveland, Mayo and even MD Anderson and Hoffman all opening hospitals in these countries, providing services with the latest top end equipment that is far more superior and cheaper than Thailand.

 The same is happening in Vietnam’s medical industry  that is fast developing with almost 72 major new hospital developments taking place in Vietnam at the moment. Mind you unlike Thailand, these are really new hospitals that being geared for medical tourism with hospital complexes being build that have hotels, shopping malls, entertainment joints etc within the complex!

Unfortunately, many Thai private hospitals are not spending concerted efforts in long term issues of medical tourism or medical travel but rather interested in short term gains. One major hospital that  receives the majority of medical tourists in the country that was also famous for an incident in which a patient got infected with a dangerous viral infection while under treatment there, is simply spending tons of monies by its incompetent PR and marketing teams on paying publications or medical portals to give it non credible awards or accreditations, running social media ads, google ads on literally every medical keyword and also paying for medical brokers and also “sales” offices in various countries to rope in customers or rather gullible patients who will eventually have to absorb the costs of all these marketing efforts in their own bills. The doctors in that hospital make additional commissions for unnecessary medical diagnostics or even procedures. That hospital over the years changed its management teams many times, to replace them with individuals with only money orientated goals and its only a matter of time that they start seeing their figures drop drastically as instead on giving patients value of money and also embarking on improving its services, doctors quality and also equipment, its focusing on how to generate money from foreign patients in every possible way. Locally, that hospital's reputation has gradually eroded from being one of the best hospitals in Thailand to being just a money grabber.

Another chain of hospitals in Thailand in which its owners were involved in legal cases about stockmarket manipulations, has the most incompetent team of corporate PR and marketing staff and also hospital directors who cannot speak decent English and have no knowledge about marketing. To them, targeting foreign medical tourists is about incorporating google translate on their websites or running ads in mainstream media or running a facebook page! And better still some the hospitals under their chain are running two tier pricing schemes discreetly in their hospitals.

The same is going on in the various private hospitals in Thailand ie all thinking about short term gains and having incompetent PR, marketing and patient care staff.

To make matters worst, some hospitals like one in Lardphrao and another in Charansanitwong, employ Filipinos with their English “twangs” accent in the hope of getting more foreign medical tourists. Most of these Filipinos are low paid hence offer terrible services and tarnishes Thailand image as a destination of hospitality. I strongly suggest avoiding these two hospitals. (dealing with incompetent Thais is one thing but dealing with incompetent Filipinos is another and mind you most people choose Thailand as they also wanted to experience Thai culture and Thai hospitality not some Pinoy Slum!)

It’s a shame as Thailand is really equipped with its location, natural resources, a great hospitality industry and medical infrastructure to be a major if not the leading Medical Tourism destination in the world but due to stupid and incompetent government officials and also hospital owners and directors, it is only a matter of time that Thailand’s place will be usurped if nothing on a strategic and collaborative basis is done.

Thailand Medical News will be hosting a major Medical Tourism Summit in June 2020 in collaboration with Visa and also five other strategic partners at the Centara Hotel along with a Medical Tourisms exhibition (the first of its kind) and also a 2 day training workshop for regional hospitals. (for more inquiries contact pr@thailandmedical.news).

Also a new online platform that is being hosted in Ukraine (to prevent libel suits) called medreviews (ie medreviews.com and medreviews.co) will be launched in December 2019, it’s a new platform similar in comparison to Trip Advisor but only focusing on hospitals, doctors,  clinics and also wellness centres around the world for people to post their reviews: good or bad about these categories.

Its also interesting to note that more Thais are now actually flying to India to get various medical procedures done as medical cost there is extremely low but the doctors there are higly skilled and competent and you now have tons of 5 star category hospitals with English speaking staff and at one new hospital in Bengaluru, you even have Thai nurses and Thai guests relations staff and also Thai food on its menu cooked by Thai chefs!