April 18, 2024

Pop culture, wealthy Chinese drive booming medical tourism in Asia

It’s one of the fastest-growing industries in Asia.

It’s one of the fastest-growing industries in Asia. Despite global economic woes, medical tourism is booming. Hospitals from India to Singapore to South Korea now treat 1 million foreign patients per year who are enticed by low-cost surgery, no waiting lists, highly trained doctors and cutting-edge technology. Industry experts predict medical tourism in Asia will grow at a rate of 15% to 20% per year.

Take South Korea. Most patients come from the US, where medical fees are hefty. However more and more come from China. “No matter how expensive it is, I will go for it,” says 34-year-old Liu Xiao-yang, of Shanghai, after undergoing double-eyelid surgery, a facelift and corrective jaw surgery in Seoul. Han Dong-Woo, of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, says 82,000 medical tourists generated about US$700m in revenue. “I see an infinite growth potential in the plastic surgery market for foreigners,” said Han, who figures operation costs in Korea are roughly half that in the US.

Some experts worry that medical tourism causes a brain drain of skilled doctors from state medicine to private and rural areas to urban. An article published last year in the International Journal for Equity in Health said higher wages and better technology in the private sector are beginning to lure doctors. It said that if the industry expands to even a fraction of its estimated growth, “this could ultimately lead to locals being priced out of their own health care system, as demand from foreign patients can drive up the costs of providing care for everyone.”

“Asian medical tourism… seems to be increasing as affluence and mobility increase in Asia,” said David Vequist, of the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas. “Consumer choice is a powerful force now in healthcare and is impacted by ageing and increasingly heavier, sicker, and more needy populations in Asia.” ~ Reuters, Oct 4

Pop culture, wealthy Chinese drive booming medical tourism in Asia
Jared Yee
medical tourism