Article #3 | Global competition is emerging in the healthcare industry., Medical care beyond boundaries.

Sep 16 2018
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Articles #3 | Global competition is emerging in the healthcare industry., Medical care beyond boundaries.
Some of my articles on Medical tourism.

“Global competition is emerging in the healthcare industry”
Raza Siddiqui, CEO, Arabian Healthcare Group, Ras Al Khaimah

The world has come a long way since the first hospital was built in the Medieval Era. Living in the globalised world as we do today, the seamless integration of countries through aviation, media, internet and other means, has opened doors of opportunities for patients and people who need care and medical attention. Patients are no longer tethered to their home state or country for medical facilities as the global citizenry prefers to traverse physical boundaries to get the care they need.

Medical tourism, the movement of people from one place to the other to avail the best in medical care, is the new reality – a by-product of integrating economies and the rising competition between the developed and the developing world. The rising cost of healthcare in the West and other developed countries, and the concomitant evolution of developing countries offering best-in-line facilities and treatment at considerably less cost, have tilted the scales in favour of the latter. Global competition is emerging in the healthcare industry. Wealthy patients from developing countries have long travelled to developed countries for high quality medical care. Now, growing numbers of patients from devel oped countries are travelling for medical reasons to regions once characterised as ‘third world’. Many of these medical tourists are not wealthy, but are seeking high quality medical care at affordable prices. Medical tourists are increasingly seen flocking from their home countries to other countries such as the UAE, India, Singapore, Thailand, and others for medical treatment at standards comparable with the Western world, without making a major dent in their financial situation. The most common treatments and diagnosis sought by medical tourists include cancer, bones and joints diseases, cardiovascular diseases, ophthalmology, neurology and neurosurgery, general surgery, and nephrology. Besides this, medical care seekers also explore foreign frontiers for dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment. “Patients from foreign countries come to India for specialised care like heart surgeries and other highly skilled operations. We provide the best of medical care at a fraction of the cost. For instance, by-pass surgery in US costs around Dh200,000 but in India we are able to conduct the surgery for only Dh20,000 — one tenth of the cost. Therefore, a lot of patients come to India”, says a prominent cardiologist at a leading hospital in India.

Brazil: The land of beaches and bikinis is also home to the highest per capita number of practicing cosmetic doctors in the world. Cosmetic procedures such as tummy tucks, breast augmentations, face-lifts and rhinoplasty run from US$3,000 to US$6,500.
Costa Rica: The land of volcanoes, a beautiful ecological paradise,
attracts nearly 15% of international tourists mainly for cosmetic surgery and dental care.
Hungary: The geological paradise, known for its mineral springs, lakes, baths and spas, has more dentists per capita than any other country.
India: The land of Yoga, has arguably the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations and English is widely spoken. Several hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) and staffed by highly trained physicians. An astonishing fact is that medical travel to India is growing by 30% a year, thanks to increasing numbers of Americans, Canadians and Europeans, especially those seeking expensive cardiac and orthopaedic surgeries.
Malaysia: The beautiful Malay Kingdom, with more than 250,000 medical travellers per year, is on its way to pip India to the top spot. Malaysian hospitals have created well man-, and woman packages that include low-cost physicals and tests promoting preventive care.
Singapore: It’s no wonder that Singapore attracts many international patients; it has a healthcare system that the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks as the best in Asia and 6th best in the world. Prices are higher than in Thailand or India but are much lower than in the United States.
South Korea: South Korea has earned a reputation for spinal surgeries, cancer screenings and treatments and cosmetic surgeries. Amazingly, many South Korean hospitals are fully digitised, with electronic health records as the standard.
Thailand: Thailand is already a leader in cosmetic surgery, with an excellent medical infrastructure. This popular destination for medical tourists rivals India in price and quality.
Turkey: This Eurasian country is home to more JCI-accredited healthcare facilities than any nation outside the US. Even for Asian patients, its draw is for access to a medical system that has plenty of doctors who are Western-trained and fluent in English.

The rise of medical tourism and the growing importance of this industry have intrigued global organisations. Several surveys and reports are conducted frequently to understand the sector and find ways to develop it further. “The medical tourism industry is dynamic and volatile and a range of factors including the economic climate, domestic policy changes, political instability, travel restrictions, advertising practices, geopolitical shifts, and innovative and pioneering forms of treatment may all contribute towards shifts in patterns of consumption and production of domestic and overseas health services”, states a report by OECD. Another recent and interesting survey by Ipsos reveals that nearly a third of more than 18,000 people surveyed from 24 countries say they are open to the idea of medical tourism. “The concept of medical tourism is well accepted in many countries”, said Nicolas Boyon, senior vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs. The survey points out that for treatments ranging from cosmetic to life-saving surgeries, whether for economic reasons or perceptions of superior treatment, citizens of countries like India, Indonesia, Russia and Mexico are the most open to the idea of being medically mobile. Almost 31% of people in each of these countries said they would definitely consider travelling for a medical or dental treatment, the survey notes. Conversely, people in Japan, South Korea, Spain and Sweden were the least likely to be medical tourists. The study also points out that there are an increasing percentage of people in the developed nations that are keen on travelling abroad for better care at affordable prices. In Italy, for instance, 66% people stated they would definitely, or probably consider, medical tourism. In the case of Germany, almost half of the people prefer the same. Almost 41% of people surveyed in Canada and 38% in the United States too said that were open to the idea. Various studies using different criteria have estimated that about 60,000 to 750,000 US residents travel abroad for healthcare each year. Boyon of Ipsos Public Affairs suggested that the cost of travel, proximity, borders and quality-of-care may also be factors considered by potential medical tourists. An overwhelming majority of people taking treatment abroad are extremely satisfied with the facilities at Singapore. This is followed by Thailand, UK, USA, India and Germany, notes the knowledge, attitude and perception (KAP) survey on medical treatment abroad conducted by Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Statistics Centre.

Several private-sector hospitals and medical centres, notably in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are reporting a surge in the number of
patients coming from abroad to seek medical treatment. The Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), a special freezone that has worldrenowned medical care centres, has also noted a sharp growth in medical tourism over the last four years. Of the 502,000 patients visiting hospitals and medical care institutions in the UAE last year, about 15% were medical tourists – marking an increase of five percentage points over 2010, when the Emirates received 412,000 patients. In 2009, an estimated 5% of the 231,000 patients had come from abroad. Ras Al Khaimah is fast emerging as an attractive destination for patients from the region too. For the last four years, patients from overseas have been flocking the RAK Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah to seek better medical treatment and care. On the whole, the UAE is fast taking the centre stage by increasing its market share in this sector. As per the estimates of Economist Intelligence Unit Estimates, the overall healthcare spending by the UAE will rise to US$16.8 billion by 2015 from an estimated US$8 billion in 2010, representing an annual average rise of 16%. Over the last few years, nearly 40 hospitals in the UAE have been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) in the US, one of the world’s leading accreditation organisations. Billions of dollars have been invested in the healthcare system and accredited hospitals and clinics in the UAE with international standards of healthcare have sprung up. The burgeoning demand coupled with the conscious effort of the government of the UAE to devise plans, infrastructure and attract the best talent in medicine world, are playing a major role in making the UAE hub for medical tourism in the region.

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