Medical Tourism in 2013
May 31, 2013
Medical Tourism to Thailand is big business and Phuket is rapidly becoming the center of worldwide attention for overseas clients wanting an image change, particularly Plastic Surgery and Dental procedures. The numbers are quite staggering. According to the latest research, over 15,000 Australians travelled overseas for Plastic Surgery last year. From Phuket International Hospital’s perspective and the agencies they partner with, over 20,000 hotel room nights were booked last year in Phuket to accommodate their medical tourists. A serious injection to the local economy. Add to these hotel bookings, medical tourists spend on average 180,000 Thai Baht (US$ 6,000) per procedure, as well as an impressive amount on food, shopping and sightseeing.
The industry is also growing, with Phuket hospitals, plastic surgeons and dental centers anticipating growth of at least 30% this year. The overall international interest in medical tourism within Phuket continues to thrive, and Phuket is responding by opening more Plastic Surgery centers, spa and wellness centers, coupled with the expansion of hospital and dental services. Phuket’s largest plastic surgery department, Phuket International Aesthetic Center (PPSI), opened its new facility earlier this year. Specifically designed and modeled on the female form, PPSI incorporates curves and intimate consultation and treatment rooms, as well as state of the art medical and surgical equipment.
The Thai Ministry of Public Health wants Thailand to become a “medical hub of Asia” and this is one of the major aims in the government’s economic development plan, and Phuket has been identified as one of three regional health hubs in the country, in addition to Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
So what is it about Phuket that attracts health and wellness seekers? Cost is the most obvious advantage. It is estimated that medical care in Thailand costs one-half to one-third of that in Singapore, one-fifth of the cost in Western Europe and about one-eighth of that in the United States. In Australia, a breast augmentation (implants) would cost anywhere around AUD$15,000. In Phuket, the same procedure is less than AUD$4,000. Add AUD$1,000 for airfares, and AUD$500-$1,000 for a hotel and Australians can have their breast augmentation completed for under AUD$6,000, less than half the cost in Australia, with a 10 day holiday in Phuket thrown in as well. Procedure costs at PPSI also include many extras that overseas clients require, from complimentary airport and hotel transport services, concierge and guide services as well as the small extras, such as mobile phone rental, complimentary internet access or late room checkout.
In addition to affordable prices, many of the things that make Phuket attractive to conventional tourists also apply to its health care services, including:
- a tolerant and welcoming attitude towards visitors
- a service-minded culture
- delicious and healthy food
- an attractive and relaxing environment in which to recover
Medical services are not only good value, but are also of good quality, offering comparable standards to Western countries and the more advanced economies of Asia. The skills of the surgeons, the technology and hygienic and safety practices of the hospital facilities are generally world class. Many doctors have trained in Europe or the US, and some are internationally renowned in their respective specializations. Both the leading hospitals in Phuket that provide the majority of services to Medical Tourists are also JCI accredited, an international accreditation and standards monitoring system that ensures quality, equal to the standards of American and Australian hospitals.
PPSI also guarantees their work, with the terms and conditions of what is covered in the unlikely event that there is a surgical complication stated on their website. Having confidence in what is being offered, and backing this up by a guarantee is unique, and I know of no other hospital or Plastic Surgeon offering this same level or assurance. Ongoing support services are also offered once a client returns to their home country. In Australia for example, a Partner Doctor Network is available where clients can access Australian Doctors who are part of the network, further providing post-operative aftercare and peace of mind.
Phuket has the added advantage of having numerous first-class resorts, beautiful beaches and a diverse range of leisure activities to enjoy both before and after a health treatment. The island’s attractions, medical services and spas are now often marketed together as a complete “health and rejuvenation” package for holidaymakers.
Recent trends over the past couple of years have seen a move towards group travel for Plastic Surgery in Thailand with many agencies offering group travel throughout the year. Previously clients would travel alone, or with their family. Now, it is possible to travel in a group of up to 25 like-minded individuals, all who have the same goal, travel to Phuket for a procedure, share their experiences, make new friends and collectively enjoy the best of what Phuket has to offer. Feedback from these group tours show that the clients, predominantly female, enjoy the support network that travelling in a group brings. Lifelong friends are made, and the group tour concept appears to be growing from strength to strength. This is not to say that only females travel for a procedure. Many men are having dental work done of facelifts, a trend that is also noticeable over the past few years.
So the benefits of health tourism are clear. With the development of the island as a premier medical and spa centre, staying in Phuket has become not only a lifestyle choice, but a healthy choice too. If you are considering an image change or plastic surgery in Thailand, contact PPSI for more information.