Thailand remains one of the most popular places in the world for medical tourism, mainly due to the low cost of the healthcare itself and also associated costs being very reasonable, such as hotels and living costs. There are a growing number of medical tourists seeking to combine a medical procedure (or even several) with a holiday stay.
Other destinations that are also very popular include Singapore, Malaysia and India. Some Latin American countries are also favoured by medical tourists, but Asia continues to lead as the preferred destination.
Although plastic surgery is commonly sought after, there are plenty of other medical procedures that are undertaken. The combination of high healthcare costs in developed countries, along with possible long waits, has led many to look overseas for healthcare.
Thailand is also well-known for having very high-spec hospitals, good English language skills on the part of doctors and nurses and expert medical specialists in abundance.
By simply booking a trip and contacting a hospital, a medical procedure can often be arranged without any significant wait.
In Thailand more than five per cent of all incoming tourists seek to combine their stay in the Kingdom with a hospital stay for a medical procedure or other healthcare-related matters. There are also long-term tourists who have found longer-term healthcare in Thailand to be better than that available in their home countries.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) began promotion of medical tourism in 2004 and has set up special websites for those looking to come to the Kingdom for medical purposes. The medical services sector in Thailand is expected to generate more than 100 billion baht by 2015.
Popular procedures include cosmetic surgery, dental procedures and dermatological care, while life-saving medical procedures can also be undertaken.
Insurance companies often welcome the move for their customers to look overseas for medical services. Prices in Thailand are considerably lower than in the U.S., for example, and most insurance companies cover those looking for international healthcare. For those who don’t have insurance, Thailand is still very much a sought-after place to get medical attention since the cost is much lower and more affordable than healthcare in Western countries.
There are a growing number of UK citizens who may be able to get healthcare under the National Health Service for almost no cost who still come to Thailand because waiting times in the UK are so long.
When looking to set up a medical procedure here in Thailand, it is worth visiting and checking out several hospitals. There are private hospitals in Pattaya and Bangkok that are large entities as well as public and private partnership hospitals that are also well-appointed. Most hospitals will welcome foreign tourists and you should be able to look around the hospital to see how well equipped it is.
The next step is to get an appointment with a doctor or specialist, which will enable you to test out the hospitals staff and also to ascertain the cost of treatment. Private hospitals are usually more expensive, but may have better equipment and staff on hand. That said, the private-public partnership hospitals are also very modern and may provide treatment for an even lower amount, though there may be a waiting time to see certain specialists if the hospital is busy.
Bangkok boasts a large number of hospitals where more specialists may be more easily found. However, Pattaya is well known as a place where quality healthcare can be found and there are plenty of different hospitals in the area, including some as far south as Sattahip.
Many hospitals have managed to attain the U.S. Joint Commission International (JCI) certification, allowing them to be accredited to the highest standard at a level that is highly regarded in the West.
Thailand is also very popular for travellers from neighboring countries since the quality of healthcare in Thailand can be better than other countries. In these cases, it is not so much about securing a lesser cost for services but more of for a search for higher quality.
When budgeting for a medical trip to Thailand, it is important to look at all expenses including airfares, ground travel, hotel and accommodation costs and, of course, the costs for both the procedures sought and the after-care required. If you have the liberty to take your time to plan a procedure then the low season offers cheaper flights and hotel costs.
As for the treatment itself, you will likely find that many hospitals provide packages that can include hospital accommodation, follow-up care and consultations with specialists before any procedure is undertaken as well as nursing and general care. Often, you may not be able to get an exact quote for treatment as there could be complications, but it is worth exploring all possible scenarios regarding any extra services that may be required so that you can budget for a maximum outlay where necessary.
For longer stays, it is worth considering a serviced apartment or even a condo rental as this will cut down costs. This would suit those coming for longer-term medicine such as chemotherapy for cancer, treatment for liver disease, or treatment for blood disorders. It is even possible to get visas extended on medical grounds so that your visa can cover the course of medicine being taken.
Even with flights and hotel accommodation, medical procedures can work out at less than half the cost of those in the U.S. or in Europe, or even as little as a quarter of the cost.
The ability to have a relaxing holiday for the recuperation period in Thailand is also very much a bonus for those coming here to have medical procedures undertaken.