Israel Medical Tourism Seminar Organised

The Israel Chamber of commerce hosted a special seminar on Israeli Medical Tourism Seminar in China.Israel receives medical tourist due to the international reputation of its physicians.

 

 

 

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Malaysian Medical Tourism

  The medical tourist from Indonesia was hoping that doctors in Penang could save him.“I don’t know what sickness he had, but I heard he was told it was terminal and the doctors could do nothing. Then when he came back to the apartment, he jumped off the balcony,” said building supervisor Ooi Boon Cheng.

The man fell seven floors and broke his legs, but he survived.

Ooi looks after Halaman Pulau Tikus, a low-density apartment block of just 26 units, where that tourist had fallen in mid-April. This secluded residence off Burmah Road is a mere 400m-stroll from Penang Adventist Hospital, 1.5km from Gleneagles Penang hospital, 1.6km from Island Hospital, 2.1km from Loh Guan Lye Specialists Centre and 2.7km from Mt Miriam Cancer Hospital, just to name the popular ones. There are more than 10 medical centres large and small in a 3km radius of Pulau Tikus.

Halaman Pulau Tikus management corporation chairman Khoo Boo Eng said his block had become the haunt of medical tourists looking for a place to stay while seeking treatment here since several years ago.

“Under the Town and Country Planning Act, this is not allowed. Residential properties cannot be used for short-stay rentals. We have told the operators to stop but we don’t have the power to enforce it,” he said.

He said he had seen medical tourists arrive who were truly sick.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to stay in our residential area. Some of my neighbours are worried that if they had contagious diseases, we would all be at risk.”

Even discounting the contagion risk, the heavy flow of people places a strain on the building’s facilities.

Ooi said he counted six units in his block which had been converted to homestay apartments, and they were enough to draw about 300 medical tourists and their families every month.

“This block was never built for that kind of people traffic. So our only elevator and the remote controlled gate spoils frequently,” Ooi said.

All the building supervisor can do for now is instruct the security guards to record every patient and their family members that “check in”.

At least knowing who is walking in and out will give a measure of security for the permanent residents, Ooi said.

Medical tourism is a multi-million ringgit deal in Penang. According to the Malaysian Health Travel Council, about 60% of all medical tourists coming to Malaysia make a beeline to Penang.

“In 2014, the hospitals accrued RM370mil in revenue. In 2015, it went up to RM390mil. Our private hospitals are expanding both physically and technologically.

“But yes, there is an urgent need for auxiliary amenities such as hotels. We encourage hotels near hospitals to cater to the needs of medical tourists,” said state Tourism Committee chairman Danny Law in an interview.

Previous news reports reveal that numerous apartment blocks in Penang had several unregistered homestays.

In one 300-unit condominium block next to Gurney Plaza, a popular mall, an estimated 100 units were available for short-term rentals in 2011.

A check on airbnb.com, an online marketplace for people to list “unique accommodations”, shows several thousand apartments and landed homes in Penang converted into short-term homestays. Those near hospitals make the point known clearly.

Based on the reams of reviews on some of these unlicensed homestays, their value-added services and personal touch could put the concierge teams of the best hotels to shame.

An Indonesian blog, bayi-tabung.com, has a section with almost 2,000 words to guide women on how to get to Lam Wah Ee Hospital in Penang for fertility treatment.

Because it can take some time before a woman can be artificially impregnated, such patients would need to stay in Penang for many days or even weeks and the section recommends apartment hosts reputed for good service, including supplying medical tourists with smartphones with Malaysian numbers so that they can make cheaper local calls.

The medical tourist, said a manager in one hospital who declined to be named, is not the same as the holiday maker.

“They don’t want five-star accommodation with international restaurants, swimming pools and a spa to enjoy in.

“They arrive in Penang with the need for medical attention so they are in no mood for vacationing. And the hospital bill can be hefty. So medical tourists don’t want to spend on luxurious accommodations,” said the manager.

She revealed that one private hospital in Penang had bought all the units in a small, nearby apartment block as free accommodation for patients who need extended treatment but do not have to be warded.

“The apartments allow their family members to stay with them to provide care. Since they don’t need to be warded, this also frees up hospital beds for patients who truly need them.

“But the supply is not enough. We are aware that our foreign patients can be a disruptive presence for our neighbourhood but there is nothing we can do about it unless new hotels tailored for medical tourists are built,” she added.

The obstable is space. The solution is the creation of more hotels in the Pulau Tikus area.

In the case of Pulau Tikus, this suburb is originally started by Siamese and Burmese settlers back in the 1800s.

To protect this upper-middle class area from turning into a development madhouse, the local authority has strict control over its streetscape.

Along the main roads here, any developer wanting to build above five floors have to set their land back at least 30m. This means they have to surrender a thick swath of land fronting the main road to the government and this will be used to build service roads, parking space and so on.

And so the unique line of decades-old shophouses and terraced homes here are preserved because nobody wants to tear them down to build much needed hotels and give land to the government.

There seems to be only one chance for Penang to entrench its position as a medical centre with a global market.

State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow has earmarked two new islands in the south being planned for reclamation.

Measuring 930ha and 566ha when reclaimed, these two islands will be used to fund the Penang Transport Master Plan – new roads and public transportation modes to cater to the state’s growth for the next 50 years and beyond.

To give an indication, those islands together are equal to 1,863 Fifa World Cup football fields, space that Penang desperately needs to stay on top of its game.

“The islands create opportunities for more holistic and integrated medical tourism development,” Chow said. He described hospitals with inbuilt medical and wellness suites for recuperating patients and family members.

Such setups are already common in developed countries, particularly in the United States, which even has a hospital in Disneyland, Florida, called Celebration Health that seamlessly melds holidays with hospital services.

“Penang tourism has gone through many phases. Long ago, we were famous for our isolated beaches. Until now, we have our reputation for good food and we are also enjoying the benefits of being a global heritage and culture site.

“To stay competitive globally, we must also strengthen our offering as a world-class medical destination and we can designate a portion of the reclaimed islands as a dedicated medical tourism hub,” Chow said.

Singaporeans Hospital faces competitions in Medical Tourism

Private healthcare providers need booster shots from the government in order to help them cope with the dwindling number of medical tourists.

Experts and industry players noted that Singapore’s hospitals are up against stiff competition from their counterparts in the ASEAN. As more Southeast Asian hospitals modernise, the city-state is slowly losing its appeal as a medical tourism hub.

For instance, Indonesian healthcare providers are aggressively investing in new facilities and equipment, said Dr. Beng Teck Liang, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer,Singapore Medical Group. This trend is among the culprits behind the sharp drop in Indonesian medical tourist arrivals, and has exacerbated the impact of the weak Indonesian rupiah.

“It’s a given. In markets like Indonesia and Vietnam, we’re going to see a progressive improvement in the healthcare sector, which will result in fewer patients heading to Singapore,” Beng said.

Beng  noted that the hospital has seen declining numbers of medical tourists in the past couple of years, particularly those from Indonesia. While demand from Vietnamese patients remains strong, Beng believes that the trend of declining arrivals is not likely to be resolved in the near future.

“Indonesian healthcare providers are aggressively investing in new facilities and equipment. I think they are successful in encouraging patients to stay local, particularly now with the use of universal healthcare,” he said.

Cutthroat competition

Beng noted that the private hospitals need to cope with a massive shift in the profile of international patients. He highlights that in the early 1990s, Indonesian patients went to Singapore for even the most basic medical procedures; now, they only head to Singapore for extremely complex cases. As a result, earnings from medical tourism has dropped by as much as 40% in some cases. Beng stressed that private hospitals need more government support in order to stay ahead of their aggressive regional competitors.

“We’ve actually had many conversations with people like the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) as to how they can help us, but I think their hands are tied as well. We want to have a dialogue with the Ministry of Health, but so far this has proven to be more challenging to have those conversations,” he said.

Beng noted that the Singapore Tourism Board has done its level best to help private healthcare players, but the regulator cannot do much about the competition that private providers face from public hospitals. Overseas patients are also crucial to the earnings of public hospitals, and Beng reckons that it is unlikely that government-owned players will stop accepting foreign patients in order to give way to private providers.

“There comes the dilemma. We do want to kick-start something; STB has encouraged the private sector to band together to grow medical tourism ourselves with some of their support. But our view is, what’s the point? We’re going to grow private sector medical tourism, but who’s going to benefit? So we really want to have that conversation with the government to understand exactly what’s going on from their viewpoint,” he said.

Another problem is the huge capacity from the public sector which is about to enter the market. Public hospitals have expanded aggressively and hired plenty of foreign doctors, which will further put a strain on private operators. “With this extra capacity, at some point in time, I think the government is going to realise that the only way to sustain some of these hospitals is again to open up medical tourism. So again our question is: Why are we investing to build? We think in the next three or five years, the government is going to come back and say, let’s all get together and promote Singapore medicine together.”

Lawrence Patrick, Chief Executive Officer of Johns Hopkins Singapore Medical Group, concurred with this sentiment. “I think the dilemma here is that for a number of years the government told the private sector: If you build it, they will come and we will partner. But now, in a couple of years, they’re not going to need that capacity in the private sector and we’re going to see consolidations again,” he said.

 

South East Asian Medical Tourism Market

Every year, Indonesians leave their country in droves to access basic medical services they can’t find in their own country. According to media reports, the Indonesian government estimates that its citizens spend roughly $11.5 billion a year on healthcare abroad – much of it in Malaysia

“What some Indonesian medical tourists are looking for is everyday care they can’t get back home,” said Meghann Ormond, a professor of cultural geography at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “This oftentimes has a lot to do with a lack of access to quality medication or cutting edge technology – lab analyses, for example. They don’t have access in Indonesia to doctors they trust. That’s why they’re crossing the borders.”

However, it’s not just Indonesians who are traversing the region to seek medical care they cannot find at home.

Globally, medical tourism is huge, and Southeast Asia is an industry hotspot. Patients Beyond Borders, a US-based organisation that tracks trends in medical tourism worldwide, estimates that the global market is expanding by up to 25% each year and is worth upwards of $55 billion annually with more than 11 million consumers – nearly a third of whom are travelling to Southeast Asia.

Contrary to popular belief, though, many of Southeast Asia’s medical tourists come from within the region itself. Patients Beyond Borders estimates that Malaysia attracts more than 640,000 medical tourists from Southeast Asia each year; when compared to figures from the country’s health ministry, an estimate of 200,000 medical arrivals from outside the region can be extrapolated. Thailand follows with 550,000 intra-Asean medical tourists and then comes Singapore with 400,000.

There are the conventional reasons why Southeast Asians are travelling for healthcare: cost, shorter wait times for procedures, access to treatments unavailable in one’s home country and the added bonus of cheap travel. But sometimes people are travelling for medical care simply because they have no other choice.

“What’s emerging is south-to-south travel, from developing country to developing country,” said Ghazali Bin Musa, a professor of business strategy and policy at the University of Malaya.

“Most medical tourists in the region are coming from neighbouring countries – Laos to Thailand, for example. Cultural similarity is a big reason. Also, cost is important, so they prefer to travel shorter distances. Nowadays, they’re mostly travelling with cheap airlines.”

Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, said that patients often travel for specialised care they can’t access in their native country. “For example, Singapore is known for excellent diagnosis and treatment of oncology, as well as stem cell and regenerative therapies. Similarly, patients travel to Malaysia for comprehensive executive health screenings, and to Thailand for cosmetic surgery, including sex reassignment surgery – Thailand performs more transgender procedures than anywhere in the world.”


Some, however, say that such figures are inflated. Keith Pollard, CEO of Intuition Communications, which publishes the International Medical Travel Journal, credits Thailand’s staggering numbers to what he calls “creative accounting”.Thailand has long been known as the industry’s top performer in the region when worldwide arrivals are included, with Asean saying that medical tourism brings in $2 billion for the country, as well as 40% of all medical tourist arrivals in Asia.

“The issue around Thailand and its numbers is how they count medical tourists,” he said. “Thailand counts the same person several times over. If someone comes from one country to Thailand they may get counted five to ten times for every interaction in the healthcare system. Visits to the consultant, an x-ray, a CT scan, an operation – patients end up getting counted several times over for all of these.”

Maharashtra to maintain medical tourism database

Foreign nationals coming to Maharashtra for medical assistance will soon get a verified list of hospitals and doctors they can turn to without worrying about being harassed or duped.

The initiative is a part of the state tourism department’s plan to boost medical tourism in the state. The Union government’s department of tourism recently announced the formation of a National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board which will verify all medical tourist spots and ensure ease of medical e-visa facility.

Valsa Nair, principal secretary of department of tourism and culture, said, “We plan to create a comprehensive database related to medical tourism panning the entire state. This would include the centres for treatment and affiliated doctors. The database would also include details of various kinds of treatments and locations where they are available in the state. Verification of the centres would ensure foreign tourists coming here for medical purposes are not harassed or cheated.”

The guidelines will be formulated and the database would be uploaded on the tourism department’s website in the next three to six months.

The Union ministry of tourism had recently announced the setting up of a board to provide dedicated institutional framework to take forward the cause of promotion of medical tourism, wellness tourism and yoga, Ayurveda tourism and any other form of Indian system of medicine covered by Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH). The ministry stated in a release that this board will work as an umbrella organization that governs medical tourism and also aid in the promotion of the same “in an organized manner”.

The tourism department also announced electronic visas for medical tourists or patients seeking treatment in the country , which should give a boost to the sector.

The medical and wellness board will have stakeholders from all sectors, including representatives from branches of AYUSH, medical and tourism department representatives.

“Initially, taking prolonged treatment was not possible for foreign patients because of the short duration of visa.Now the e-medical visa will definitely help, especially if the benefit can be extended for those with chronic ailments. The government should include medical professionals in the board formed for medical tourism. Also, they should keep in loop the embassies and consulates concerned not only for issuing visas, but also to promote medical tourism in their countries,” said Parag Sancheti, professor and chairman of Sancheti Institute for Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation.

Cancer surgeon Dhananjay Kelkar, medical director of Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, said, “We must treat these patients as our guests and facilitate their visa and insurance issues. Taking second opinion should be made compulsory to ensure people are not cheated. There is also a need for providing language translation services for understanding their food habits and culture better.”

App for safety of tourists

Valsa Nair, principal secretary of Maharashtra Tourism, said the state will come out with a safety handbook for tourists in the form of a mobile app in the next three to six months. A GPS-based `Maha-explorer’ will also be created for tourists. The state is also looking at setting up a tourist police force to ensure safety of tourists

 

Apollo Hospitals to expand in Nigeria

Relief has come to Nigeria’s health sector as India doctors and medical experts storm the country to end medical tourism estimated at over $1 billion. The Indian doctors are already training Nigerian doctors on new technology and trends in the field of medicine to enable local professionals treat patients in the country, rather than refer them to India or other parts of the world. Apollo Speciality Hospital in India is leading the chase and wants Nigeria hospitals to have the requisite technology and expertise that will enable them treat patients with any form of ailment, rather than allow them go abroad for treatment. Trainings have taken place in Abuja and Lagos, including Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos. Healthcare security According to the Business Head for Nigeria, Rakesh Jalla, the healthcare security in Nigeria is not as good as what people expect, prompting many people to travel abroad for treatment. Jalla who is also the deputy general manager, international marketing at Apollo Hospitals noted that, “We want the patients to be treated at their own country.  We come here with some specialised doctors to share the latest technology and see how we can collaborate together to ensure patients are treated here,” He further said the hospital is collaborating with Nigerian doctors in the areas of knowledge sharing, training programmes, which enable doctors from Apollo and other areas trained in the UK and the US, to school Nigerian counterparts for three or six months free of charge. He said Nigeria has a large population and great opportunities, stressing that Apollo wants more collaboration with the government in order to assist Nigeria improve its healthcare delivery system. “See it’s easy to invite patients to come to India for treatment, but if they are treated in their own country, they will be happier. There’s need to let them be treated here. We come with our technology. But technology comes with money. It doesn’t come without money,” he stated, adding that the hospital has 54 hospitals in India and experts who are among the best in the world Research shows that almost 50 percent of outbound medical tourism in Nigeria goes to India.

India remains among the best in this area, as the country is famed with latest technological research on healthcare. Skullbase surgeon “We are trying to collaborate more with Nigerian doctors. A number of Nigerians are middle-class and they come for treatment in government hospitals. We can use our expertise to treat them there. When we are collaborating, government should also know what we have and what we can do. We are planning to have a hospital here in a year or two years’ time. “We have people who are coming from India and the UK to treat patients here. When we have collaboration with the government, they can support those patients,” he added. Neck and skullbase surgeon, C. Rayappa, said: “We are here to see what we can do to help Nigeria. What we do is not something extraordinary. We collaborate and exchange information and support each other. Nigeria can expect doctors trained and we can bring knowledge here.”