Healthcare in Asia


Healthcare in Asia has somewhat exploded into prominence over the last few years, with more and more countries across the region focusing on developing world-class facilities and becoming prominent figures in their respective medical fields. Thailand has become particularly well known for its advances in cosmetic surgery, while Malaysia has one of the highest fertility treatment success rates in the world. Hong Kong has become a world leader in cardiology, and in India advances in medical practices have progressed so rapidly that many of the world’s leading neurologists have held many of their conferences there.

While older medical institutions in the UK and the US may have years of experience, expertise and reputation to back them, hospitals across Asia, being built more recently, often have better facilities and more state-of-the art equipment on hand. The advances in technology assisting medicine are having a significant impact on common practices with less invasive surgical procedures and more accurate diagnosis generally enhancing healthcare standards across the globe.

Healthcare across Asia is becoming more consistent with some countries being less developed than others, nonetheless medical expertise is growing at a remarkable rate. Many medical students from across Asia often end up studying abroad particularly pursuing American and British medical practices, and are returning to their respective countries to incorporate these in their treatment.

Countries of note in the region include Malaysia, as one of the best hospitals in the country, Prince Court Medical Centre, took first in the ‘MTQUA 2013 World’s Best Hospitals for Medical Tourists’, as well as the medically advanced state of Penang being listed in the ‘Top 10 Medical Tourism Destinations’ in a recent WHO Medical Tourism Report. Both Singapore and Hong Kong are also highly regarded and are considered by Forbes to have some of the best hospitals in the world. Countries from as far afield as India to Indonesia are delivering better practices and care than ever thanks to major investment from governments who are driving their countries to developed status, who recognize that quality healthcare is a key component of that achievement.

And healthcare in Asia looks to continue to grow as the region sees growth and returns in its investment. With the demand for global treatment rapidly growing year on year, the future of healthcare in Asia looks bright.

Hong Kong has arguably one of the best healthcare systems in the world. A network of government-operated hospitals, which are open to all citizens, the entire operation only costs the Hong Kong government about three percent of their GDP. However for this amount, Hong Kong provides some of the most highly regarded hospitals in the world.

Hong Kong is particularly noted for having some of the best specialists in the fields of cardiology, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism as well as haematology, haematological oncology and neurosurgery.

All government-operated hospitals have state of the art equipment and facilities and most doctors have not only trained abroad but are often proficient in a number of different languages so that they can explain procedures more clearly to their patients.

As one of the most developed and ambitious states in Asia, Hong Kong delivers healthcare and medical practices that are among the very best the region has to offer.

In fact the healthcare on offer in Hong Kong is a subject of great pride for its people, with 54 hospitals across the state; 41 government-operated hospitals and 13 private hospitals for those who wish to use them. When a citizen falls ill they simply go to the hospital and are treated without charge; unless they are admitted, in which case they are billed for the food they eat during their stay and larger operations.

The government-operated hospitals run on a “no turn away” policy. This means that no-one is denied healthcare through lack of means and public hospitals are subsidized for residents on a low income. To have access to any type of public healthcare in Hong Kong, you need a local ID card which entitles citizens to various subsidies and healthcare benefits; however these are not applicable to expatriates.

Hong Kong also has one of the healthiest populations in the world. The life expectancy is 84 for women and 79 for men, the second-highest worldwide (as of a UN study carried out in 2011). Hong Kong hospitals lead the field in many surgical practices and the first live donor liver transplant was carried out in Hong Kong in 1993. To this day, in its health provision, Hong Kong stays ahead of the field and provides service and facilities that not only deliver for the resident population but also attracts high numbers of international medical travelers.

If there’s one thing that Singapore is known for, it’s efficiency, and no sector benefits more from that legendary expertise in organisation than healthcare. The diligence is paying off; in 2014, Bloomberg rated the island city-state the best out of 51 countries for its annual ‘Most Efficient Health Care’ ranking, while the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) declared it second in the world for healthcare outcomes.

World class medical technology, an environment supportive of further research and highly trained doctors and nurses play a major part in Singapore’s success. In past years, Singaporeans have made important medical breakthroughs with their international peers, achieving feats such as co-developing a SARS detection kit and an experimental vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus as well as being the first to commercially produce human embryonic stem cell lines for clinical trial use.

Cancer treatment is a top specialisation of Singaporean healthcare, with more than 1.3 million patients visiting the multi-award winning National Cancer Centre Singapore over the past decade and the NUS Cancer Science Institute leading the development of new cancer therapies. Besides that, cardiology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics and paediatrics are just some of the many other sought after treatments in Singapore.

Cost is a major concern in medical issues but healthcare remains significantly more affordable in Singapore than its western counterparts, particularly for major surgical procedures. Hospital wards labelled as C or B2 are subsidised by the government and therefore reserved for citizens with public healthcare schemes, while B1 and A wards are rarely or not subsidised.

Many hospitals, clinics and centres in Singapore have received the Gold Seal of Approval by the Joint Commission International, which keeps an eye on the quality of medical practices and facilities worldwide. Notable examples include Raffles Hospital boasting a traditional Chinese Medicine unit and Gleneagles Hospital becoming the first hospital in South East Asia to perform a living donor liver transplant for a child.

In typically ambitious fashion, Singapore has a slew of new medical research facilities planned to encourage further development, including a planned National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Though these investments will only bear fruit in the long run, this enthusiastic approach towards progress seems to indicate that Singapore’s healthcare system, like its people, will not be one to rest on its laurels.

Besides delicious street food and talented pop singers, Taiwan is also fast gaining a reputation in Asia for providing accessible, high-quality healthcare – particularly in the realm of medical tourism.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance system provides cheap access to medical benefits and procedures for locals and expatriates, with funding covered by compulsory premium contributions and standardised co-payments upon receiving treatment. This eliminates the need for patients to ‘shop around’ for the best treatments at the cheapest price and also helps drive down the cost for visiting medical tourists.

The country’s advanced health information network remains a cornerstone of its progressive healthcare system, connecting all hospitals and most clinics to the Bureau of National Health Insurance for e-claim purposes and facilitating the use of health ‘smart cards’ that contain patient information and medical history.

Affordable plastic surgery is a major draw in Taiwan, with the island being the only nation in Asia to receive recognition for Plastic Surgery Innovation from the Society of American Plastic Surgeons, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in plastic surgery. In 1978, Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital established Southeast Asia’s first craniofacial centre and more than 30,000 patients with a cleft lip and palate have enjoyed a 100% success rate since.

Hepatic medicine is another of Taiwan’s medical specialties, with Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital performing the first live liver transplant for a child and maintaining the highest survival rate worldwide. For matters of the heart, the National Taiwan University Hospital boasts the distinction of having performed the first cardiac cryosurgery in the world and the first successful artificial heart transplant. Over 5,000 cardiac diagnostic and treatment procedures are conducted annually in the country.

Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a prime destination to seek traditional Chinese medicine, advanced orthopedic surgeries and fertility treatments. In another first, the Taipei Wellness Centre and Resort was recently established in the city – a first-of-its-kind ‘medical tourism hotel’ that aims to combine cure and comfort by providing health management programmes, physical checkups, cosmetic medicine and basic consultation services.

With an engaging local culture, a comprehensive system and continuous investment and research dedicated towards cultivating cutting-edge medical technology and expertise, Taiwan continuously demonstrates its commitment towards growing its healthcare sector and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Top 10 hospitals in Asia

Learn about Medical Tourism Business



Many factors have given rise to the upsurge of medical tourism in Asia. The availability of highly specialised doctors and paramedics, sophisticated medical technology and world-class facilities at a much lower cost when compared to developed countries are among the key pull factors. Services such as concierge assistance at airports, translation services and tie ups with luxury hotels are part of packages offered. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia takes a look at its list of the top 10 hospitals for medical tourism in Asia.

Prince Court Medical Centre – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Prince Court Medical Centre (PCMC) topped the list of 2013 World’s Best Hospitals for Medical Tourists in the annual rankings by Medical Travel Quality Alliance. The hospital has also been commended for its attention to key non-clinical aspects of care that influence good outcomes and a successful medical travel journey for medical tourists. PCMC’s special facilities include a sophisticated burns unit, an in-vitro fertility department with multiple fetal monitoring. It has garnered several accolades over the past seven years and continues to be the only private hospital with a full-fledged Electronic Medical Record system coupled with a Radiology Information System/Picture Archiving and Communication System (RIS/PACS).

Fortis Hospital – Bangalore, India

The Fortis Hospital, Bangalore, a Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited hospital has been on Medical Travel Quality Alliance’s (MTQUA) World’s Best Hospitals list for medical tourists for the past 4 years. It is a 400-bed, multi-specialty hospital with state-of-the-art facilities dedicated to the whole range of cardiac, orthopedic, neurosciences, minimal access surgery and women and child services. The hospital also has the distinction of being the first hospital in Asia to perform the first custom-fit knee replacement surgery in 2010 and is credited with introducing the HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) technology for prostate cancer to India.

Bumrungrad International Hospital- Bangkok, Thailand

World famous Bumrungrad International Hospital (Bumrungrad) has been featured in many international media and deservedly so. The Thai name, pronounced ‘bahm-roong-RAHT’, means “care for the people,” and no phrase could more aptly describe the hospital and clinic complex, the largest private medical facility in Southeast Asia. Annually, more than a million patients seek healthcare at the Bumrungrad and almost half of them are expatriates, tourists, or medical travelers from 190 different countries. This hospital has 554 beds and over 30 specialty centres, offering state-or-the-art diagnostic, therapeutic and intensive care facilities in a one-stop medical centre.

Bangkok Hospital Medical Center – Bangkok, Thailand

The Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, opened in 1972, was the first private medical institution in the nation. It has more than 650 full-time and consulting physicians, 700 nurses and scores of support technicians and specialists under its roof. Its ambulatory and medevac fleet covering air, sea and landis amongst the largest in Southeast Asia. Its team of interpreters and coordinators in its dedicated service centres that cater to a wide range of nationalities, are fluent in 26 languages. This state-of-the-art hospital is also complete with luxurious accommodation, five-star amenities and a host of services that includes limousine airport transfer and on-site visa extension.

Gleneagles Hospital – Singapore

From a 45-bed nursing home more than half a century ago, Gleneagles Hospital has grown to a 272-bed multi-disciplinary state-of-the-art medical facility.The hospital specialises incardiology, gastroenterology, liver transplant, obstetrics and gynaecology, oncology and orthopaedics. Its key strengths lie in its patient-focus, user-friendly services, quality care, specialists’ expertise and proven technology. In 2006 and 2009, the hospital was accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), the world leader in benchmarking of healthcare standards. Today, Gleneagles Hospital has more than 300 multi-disciplinary specialists from over 30 specialties and sub-specialties to provide wide range of medical and surgical services for the total management of patients.

Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation-Taiwan

Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation was one of the four missions of Tzu Chi Foundation which was found by Master Cheng Yen in 1966. Today the medical foundation has established six hospitals in Hualien, Taipei, Taichung, Dalin, Yuli and Kuanshan respectively to provide quality medical services in a humanistic way to the people in Taiwan since 1986. The hospital offers a wide range of services that include organ transplantations, laser cosmetic surgeries and high-tech health screenings. Other specialty areas include stroke treatment, malignant tumor treatment, orthopedic surgery and stem cell research. Many international patients with severe and unusual illnesses come for treatment in this hospital in Hualien, the most important medical center in eastern Taiwan. The separation of conjoined twins, Lea and Rachel from the Philippines in June 2003 was one such case.

Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital – Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital (HKSH) which overlooks the Happy Valley Race Course in Hong Kong, is one of the island’s most prestigious and internationally accredited private hospitals. Started out as The Yeung Wo Nursing Home in 1922 with 28 beds, HKSH has now over 400 beds and a stable of specialty centres, offering comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic services. Its motto, “Quality in Service, Excellence in Care”, has inspired the hospital to provide a high standard of patient care with a commitment to deliver excellent health services. In 2012, HKSH was named “The Best Healthcare Provider in Asia” at The New Economy’s Healthcare Awards 2012.

Asan Medical Center – Seoul, South Korea

The Asan Medical Center (AMC), established in 1989, is one of the world’s largest hospital campuses covering some 4 million square feet. It is Korea’s largest medical institution with 1,600 physicians and surgeons, 3,100 nurses, 2,680 beds, and 67 operating rooms.It won Korea’s ‘Most Admired Hospital’ title five years in a row in a survey conducted by Korea Management Association Consulting. AMC offers the medical tourist excellent services through its Organ Transplantation Centre, Asan Heart Institute, Asan Cancer Centre, Digestive Disease Centre and Health Screening and Promotion Centre, including a full range of medical and dental specialties.

St. Luke’s Medical Center – Philippines

Founded in 1903, and regarded as one of the best hospitals in Asia and in the world, St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC), operating in Global City and Quezon City, has an extensive expertise of doctors that enables them to provide patients with a full range of world-class medical care. Today, SLMC has an elite team ofover 1,700 medical consultants, 230 medical residents and 123 fellows on its roster, apart from interns from its College of Medicine This 650-bed hospital houses 10 institutes, 8 departments and 23 centers. Its hospital- affiliated medical consultants see out-patients in more than 450 private clinics and its international patients come from around Asia, Micronesia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

ID Hospital – Seoul, South Korea

The ID Hospital in Korea is a very renowned plastic surgery hospital with more than 30 medical specialists. It is not only Asia’s top hospital in maxillofacial surgery but also its first. It gives top priority to patients’ safety with facilities such as aseptic germ-free air showers, self-generating power stations, and fireproof interiors which were incorporated from the very early stages of the architectural designing. The hospital conducts intense pre-operation checks such as blood tests, liver function test, electrocardiogram, and chest X-rays with its independent facilities within its own premises. In addition the hospital is equipped with 3-dimensional computer tomography (3D CT) scanning facilities and every patient undergoes 3D CT scanning before the surgery for precise diagnosis of their conditions.

Columbia to Promote Medical Tourism

During Brian Treece’s successful campaign for Columbia mayor, he hinted about a plan to promote the city as a destination for medical tourism.

Within weeks of the August election when voters approved an increase in the local lodging tax to help fund a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport, Treece appointed his Task Force on Medical Tourism.

Part of the early stages was establishing a marketing subcommittee and a provider subcommittee to help refine what areas the task force will focus on and what steps might lead to boosting the city’s status as the go-to place for medical services.

The task force and subcommittees already have demonstrated collaboration among providers who also compete for medical dollars in the areas of radiology, cardiology, orthopedics and cancer treatment. When Treece announced the task force, he was flanked by executives and representatives of Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care, local surgical centers and hoteliers.

“I think the fact that you have both MU Health Care and Boone Hospital, Columbia Orthopaedic Group and Mizzou BioJoint Center all in the same room for the first time ever” will result in “what’s right for our patients and our community,” Treece said at the August announcement. He said the task force work was important because “health care is a major component of Columbia’s growing economy.”

Treece asked the task force to make recommendations on five areas:

marketing Columbia’s key subspecialty medicine areas;
airport improvements, such as additional routes and terminal improvements, to improve access for out-of-town patients;
public transportation enhancements, such as special-needs shuttles and accessible vans;
hotel and short-term housing options with coordination between hospital schedulers and hotels;
and determining the best areas to target for new health care jobs.
Subcommittees have made presentations on possible approaches to promoting the city for medical tourism. The marketing group has discussed ways to increase the community’s medical-services image in the state and region. The provider group had a somewhat more scaled-back focus on first determining why many local and area residents apparently prefer to use medical facilities in St. Louis or Kansas City for specialty services.

Treece’s charge to the task force was to evaluate what the community does well and where there are gaps in medical services.

The provider group quickly listed that some of the specialty services not offered in Columbia include heart, liver and bone marrow transplants — and there’s no facility that offers pediatric open heart surgery.

James Cook, representing the Mizzou BioJoint Center and Missouri Orthpaedic Institute, said the research program already experiences about 30 patients per month who fly to Columbia for joint replacement and biojoint procedures.

“I think we’ve already proven that it works,” Cook said. “The attraction of resources and the flavor and spirit of Columbia can really seal the deal” as a destination for medical services.

Treece also asked the task force to keep an eye on the availability of local medical services for the pet patients that receive treatment and services at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Greece Medical Tourism

The necessary institutional interventions that will help the development of medical tourism in Greece dominated the recent meeting of the Department of Medical Tourism of the Scientific Research Institute of the Panhellenic Medical Association Research. During the meeting, the participants discussed actions to be taken in the next period, both in Greece and abroad, to promote medical tourism as well as the certifications required for health centers.

“Medical tourism is a golden opportunity for Greece as it can be an important driving force for the development of the Greek economy. We have developed an important strategy to promote it that will be launched in the coming period. However, the Greek state should take advantage of this opportunity and make the necessary interventions,” George Patoulis, president of the Medical Association of Athens, said.

They also referred to the conference to be held in Ithaca on May 27-28 with the participation of distinguished Greek and foreign professionals.


Hyderabad to launch Medical Tourism Hub

The Telangana government is contemplating an integrated medical tourism hub in Hyderabad on the lines of T-Hub in the field of information technology.

With about 10,000 international arrivals coming to Hyderabad a year for various medical purposes, it will be convenient to have an integrated facility centre where patients need not extend their hospital stay for the sake of post operative care, physiotherapy or special nutritional diet.

The hub will offer accommodation as well as the above services under one roof by coordinating with respective service providers at standardised rates. This will have an advantage of freeing the beds in hospitals for new patients in waiting and also help the patients who underwent treatment move out to a professionally run hub for recuperative care and bring down their hospital stay expenditure, sources said.

The Tourism Department will convene a preliminary meeting next month with government as well as corporate hospitals, hotels, services providers in medical diagnostics, physiotherapy, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, etc. The hub is proposed to be set up in the Sports Tower building in Gachibowli because of its strategic location – closer to international airport, corporate hospitals and other facilities. It will serve as a one stop centre for medical tourists right from taking care of their medical appointments and post medical treatment requirements and coordinate with all players in the medical tourism field, the sources explained.

Alternatively, hospital administrative staff or hotel front desks could also help the tourists in contacting the hub to meet their requirements once they are discharged from the hospital. If all things go well, the medical tourism hub will become operational in three to four months and it will be the first such centre in the country, the sources said. Apparently, such integrated medical tourism hubs are doing well in Costa Rica and Bangkok. Hyderabad with good hospitals and reputed doctors that attract NRIs, foreign nationals as the cost of many medical treatments and surgeries is about one-fifth of what it would cost abroad, official sources identified medical tourism as one potential sector that can be tapped seriously to yield spin off economic benefits to the State.

Each international medical tourist will come at least with one companion as attendant and may spend close to ₹10 lakh on travel, medical, sight seeing, local travel and shopping. “ Our target is to increase medical tourists to Telangana by about one lakh by 2025,” official sources said.

Need to promote dental tourism of India


Kerala has long considered ayurveda, backwaters and culture (ABC) as its USP.Dental specialists in the state now want to add letter D to it in an attempt to tap the potential of dental tourism. A group of dental surgeons have set up a `Dental Holiday Knowledge Centre’ in Fort Kochi, to promote the concept among tourists.
India, Singapore and Thailand account for 90% of the medical tourism in Asia. “India ranks far below Thailand in dental tourism even though cities like Kochi have the necessary infrastructure to provide exceptional dental care at much cheaper rates,” said Dr Seby Varghese, founder of Dentela Foundation and secretary of Indian Dental Association, Nedumbassery. According to the research undertaken by Sindhu Joseph, an assistant professor with Kannur University , who has specialised in tourism management, 24.5% of the total medical tourists visiting Kerala can be credited to dental tourism. “Around 40% of all medical tourists visiting Kerala also look for leisure. As of now, the leading source of information regarding dental service in the international market is word of mouth. If you exclude NRIs the figure is 24.5%,” said Sindhu.
“I came to India specifically to see my daughter, who was staying in Fort Kochi.She has had previous experience with Dr Seby Varghese. I need some work done on my front teeth so I took her word for it and visited his office”, said Deborah Moe, a tourist who visited Kochi from the US this year.
Dr Seby says dental tourism has not been given an adequate platform to promote itself. “Most promotional opportunities like travel mart are dominated by large medical corporations who only promote themselves,” said Dr Seby .

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He said dental tourism should be promoted like ayurveda. “In Thailand, dental tourism is uniquely promoted by the government. It has high online visibility and significant promotional presence in road shows and conventions. In Kochi, we have one of Asia’s leading dental lab facilities, which is catering not just to the market demands in Kochi but to foreign nations as well. We have the infrastructure, all we need is the promotion,” said Dr Seby .
Doctors say dental implants, tooth alignment and smile makeovers are the most frequently requested procedures. Getting dental implants done in Thailand can cost up to Rs 1 lakh, while the same can be done in Kochi for just Rs 55,000.
“The work I had done on my teeth was exceptional,” said Deborah.
The knowledge centre in Fort Kochi, which is set to open in October, will only admit clinics and centres that are approved by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). “Ayurveda marred its reputation due to malpractices by a few institutions, we don’t want the same to happen to the dental health industry ,” said Dr Seby.

Chinese travelling more for medical tourism

The number of Chinese tourists who made outbound medical trips through one of China’s most popular travel agencies this year is up five times that of last year, Ctrip reports.

Two potential clients consider medical tourism travel options. [Photo:]

Two potential clients consider medical tourism travel options. [Photo:]

A report by the travel app and website is expecting 500,000 outbound medical trips to be made by Chinese tourists by the end of 2016.

Ctrip offers more than 300 medical tourism products in cooperation with 80 travel agencies.

The average expenditure of outbound medical tourism per capita reached more than 50,000 yuan (7,200 USD), ten times the average per capita spend of conventional tourism, and ranked second only after polar tourism.

The high quality of medical services abroad is the main lure for Chinese tourists. The top ten destinations for medical care are Japan, South Korea, the US, Taiwan, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, Switzerland, Thailand and India.

Health checks, including early detection of possible cancers, accounts for half of all outbound medical trips, while plastic surgery trips are also popular among female tourists. Figures show that Chinese tourists made over 100,000 medical trips to South Korea this year, most of them were attracted by plastic surgery.

Residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Shenzhen comprised the largest group of tourists seeking overseas medical care.