Medical tourism is a growing phenomenon worldwide, with millions of patients every year discovering that the difference in cost between medical treatment in their home country, and medical treatment plus a plane flight to another country is simply to great to ignore. Old concerns over service standards in Asian countries are slowly being eroded, as word of mouth assures prospective patients that Thai, Indian and Malay hospitals are some of the best in the world – some are even “more like a five-star hotel than a hospital, reminding one of super-speciality hotels such as the Apollo and Escorts back home [in Dubai]”. What are the middle Eastern countries saying about medical tourism in Thailand, and why has the Arabic world suddenly become so taken with medical tourism and hospitals in Bangkok, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur?
One reason that the Muslim world is now one of the fastest growing markets for medial tourism to hospitals in Bangkok is the special facilities and services for Muslim patients and visitors, uncommon outside the Middle East. Bangkok Hospital, for example, offers halal food to its patients and also for visitors. The hospital also offers directions and information on public signage in Arabic, as well as Thai and English. The doctors at Bangkok Hospital are not only world-class and internationally trained, but most speak Urdu, Hindi and Arabic as well as Thai and English. Bangkok Hospital has facilities for translating dozens of other languages, also.
Qatar is one country in particular that is seeing large rises in the numbers of medical tourists – and here, the rises are quantified. The number of Qatari patients in Bangkok hospital in 2008 was 3,046, which represents a 107% increase from 2007. The number of patients from the United Arab Emirates is 18,226 to August 2008, with 3,152 from Oman. Bangkok Hospital takes about 19% of its patients from the Gulf, according to Bangkok Hospital Medical Centre officials.
Bumrungrad International is another Thai hospital that sees large numbers of international patients, and particularly those from the Middle East. Newsweek puts the hospital on its top ten list of international hospital destinations, and the hospital is reported in media under headlines that focus on the health-mixed-with-pleasure aspect of medical tourism.
As a destination for medical tourism, Mumbai is deservedly fast growing. Arabic patients seek referrals in Mumbai, as well as other South East Asian areas, for conditions such as heart problems, cancer and physical rehabilitation, as well as for check-ups and preventative medicine. Mumbai Medical Tourism is an organization which integrates the pleasure and health aspects of caring for your heart and the rest of your body better than possibly any other. They offer Ayurveda packages, Yoga packages, as well as sightseeing packages, and the medical facilities include diabetology, cardiology, dental care, eye care and orthopedics, among others.
The trend towards medical tourism has been growing in the West for some time, and is now reasonably well-integrated into European, US and Australian psyches. The trend is also moving that way in the Middle East – to the benefit of all concerned!