Thailand as a Medical Tourism Destination

 As one of the top tourist destinations across the globe, Thailand is known for its friendly and accommodating people, rich culture and superb food.  The strengths of Thailand’s tourism industry have spilled into the medical service sector, thus adding to the development of medical tourism in the country.

In the early 2000s Thailand position as the number one medical tourism destination in the world has been acknowledged. In 2016, over 32 million international tourists visited the country.  According to Thailand’s Economic Intelligence Center, only 9% of the total number of tourists are medical tourists. This means about 2.8 million are medical tourists.  Currently, there are over 1,000 hospitals in Thailand offering first rate medical and dental services, and leading the list is Samitivej Hospital and its satellite hospitals.

Thailand’s Healthcare Facilities

Of the total number of hospitals across Thailand, some 470 facilities are private. Of this number, 37 private hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). Medical tourism in Thailand is largely spearheaded by private hospitals. Internationally educated and trained physicians are attracted to join such hospitals not only because of the excellent facilities and support staff but also because of the very competitive compensation.

The group of Samitivej Hospital and two other leading hospitals in Bangkok have become globally recognized for their excellence. Statistics show that up to 50% of the patients that are treated in these hospitals are foreigners. The fact is foreign currencies go a long way in Thailand.  Thus, medical treatment of international patients as well as their hospitalization and accommodation during their stay are still less costly than in their home countries.

In 2010 almost 90% of medical tourists preferred to get medical treatment in India, Singapore and Thailand. Today, Thailand specifically Bangkok is the top choice as Singapore and India proved to be more expensive options.

Medical Tourism Hub

Bangkok is now considered as the medical tourism hub of Asia.  One of the reasons is that the city is highly accessible from any point on the globe as hundreds of international flights service the area. There are affordable accommodations, dependable public transport, good food and entertainment, and thirty-day visas for foreigners to make their stay, whether for leisure or for medical reasons, easy.

The Thais have a reputation for hospitality and this extends to their attentive and gracious service to those seeking medical help.  In 2004, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), commenced promoting medical tourism. The scope of medical services available included dental work, cosmetic surgery and dermatology offered by the top private hospitals in Bangkok and across Thailand. TAT, in a joint venture with the national bank of Thailand, Krungthai Bank, started offering debit cards to tourists.  Known as the Miracle Thailand Card, medical and life insurance coverage in the event of accidents is included.
More Privileges to Medical Tourists

Thailand’s medical tourism is a major factor in boosting its economy. Thus, certain concessions were given to medical tourists from Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Laos and Cambodia. Instead of the usual 30-day visa, medical tourists from these countries including four companions are allowed to stay for 90 days without visa.

Medical tourists who are 50 years old and above and are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Australia, France, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Italy and Sweden, together with their spouse and children under 20 years of age, can apply for a 10-year visa. This is on top of the current one-year visa initially applied and approved.

The two new measures will surely help further Thailand’s status as the top medical and wellness tourist destination in the world.

Procedures Offered to Medical Tourists

Medical and dental practitioners in Thailand are highly qualified and experienced to handle all procedures and treatment.  Some of the most common procedures required by medical tourists include general medical check-up, plastic and or cosmetic surgeries, cardio-related procedures, orthopedic surgeries, bariatric surgery, infertility treatment, and eye surgeries. Dental procedures comprising from checkups to dental surgeries are sought after by medical tourists too.

Inexpensive Medical Treatments

It is a given that medical practitioners from the originating countries of medical tourists in Thailand are also highly qualified to address any medical and dental procedures and treatment course. However, cheap and widespread air travel and exorbitant healthcare costs in first world countries have contributed to the boom of medical tourism in the country

Treatment and procedures done in Thailand are from 20% to 50% lower than first world countries. For example, a heart bypass in the United States costs more than $100,000. In Thailand, the same procedure is a little over $10,000.  Knee replacement surgery is a very common surgical procedure done in Thailand as it only costs a little under $10,000. In the US, the same procedure is about $40,000.

Clearly, the money saved leave the medical tourist more than enough to recuperate and even enjoy a much-needed break, in Thailand.

Statistics indicate that Thailand has a 16% growth rate in, raking over the 100-billion-baht mark in terms of medical and dental services rendered.   Medical tourism in Thailand is a truly lucrative industry and it seems there is no stopping its growth.