Medical tourism expected to rise
Demand from foreigners for Thai medical services, especially those within the Asean Economic Community (AEC) region, is expected to jump significantly over the next few years, especially on the back of strong support from the Thai government, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre (K-Research).
Medical tourism is expected to play a major role in generating more revenue for the quality private hospitals in Thailand, especially those in Bangkok. K-Research said this could help offset the drops in revenue being experienced in these hospitals due to the overall poor domestic economic position.
K-Research stated that revenue generated from foreign patients in local private hospitals has risen from 25 percent five years ago to 30 percent in 2015. This trend is expected to continue over the next few years.
As well as the continued large influx of foreigners, especially from within the AEC, there are, of course, large numbers of expats working in Thailand as well as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, where medical service standards remain comparatively low. This encourages them to come into Thailand, where standards are higher.
K-Research’s report stated the number of expats who came to Thailand for medical services had grown by 6.3 percent year by year between 2009 and 2014.
The report said, “The K-Research Centre expects the number of medical tourists and the number of expats using Thai medical services to rise further. Competition among Thai private hospitals, however, is also expected to intensify, especially for those who are ranked as major players in the market.”
In what might be a little surprising, people from Myanmar and the Middle East accounted for the largest proportion of foreign patients.
That said, the report warned that “Although there is room to grow in terms of capitalising on rising demand from Myanmar and the Middle East, there are also several big competitors who are also eying those countries.”
The report recommended that Thai private hospitals should capitalise on the growing trend of medical tourism by expanding their customer base to other Asian states that have strong growth potential, including Indonesia, Vietnam and China.
The report stated, “The high standard of Thai medical services, which is widely recognised, is the core strength of the Thai medical industry that can be used to help expand its customer base to offset the drop in revenue from Thai patients.”
Medical services that are popular among foreigners include standard check-ups, which account for 17 percent of foreign patients, cosmetic surgery (14 percent) and dental services (11 percent).