Korean medical tourism has gained attention because on July 22 of 2010, Inha University Hospital gained international fame by gaining certification from JCI (Joint Commission International Accreditation) as the first Airport Medical Center. Medical tourism is now becoming an important tourism product due to the revision in the medical laws last year. The change in the law means Korea can attract foreign patients on an official basis. This change has prompted us to ask about the medical services available to foreign patients.
Medical tourism is a promising industry and refers to the situation whereby people from other countries, as well as provinces make an effort to maintain, recover, and hasten their health. In Korea, before the medical law was revised hospitals were not allowed to market themselves to foreign patients, but now they can. The rate of market growth had averaged more 20% a year even before the law passed. Many of these patients come to Asia due to lower prices and an easing of the service trade barrier. In Korea, the terms “wellness healthcare”, “medical services” and “fun and relaxation” are brought together. Our strong points can be advanced medical technology, tourism resources, reasonable prices, and service. Many hospitals have made an effort to attract foreign patients, so they already have many systems in place. Here are some examples in Korea.
Asan Medical Center has hired Russian doctors to care for high class Russian patients. Wooridul Spine Hospital offers one-stop service that provides information on travel and a welcoming service at the airport. They have a plan to increase the rate of foreign patients from 1% to 5-10%. Cheongshim Hospital has 3 Japanese doctors, 1 Austrian doctor and 30 nurses on staff. They also created a medical records system, and signed an MOU with 5 Japanese medical tourism travel agencies, so one of their tour destination is that hospital. Besides these services, they also offer many packages including childbirth checkups, stomach cancer treatment and back pain and hemorrhoids treatment and others. Especially, childbirth packages attracted 800 people by the middle of 2008.
Korean Medical Tourism
There are currently 303 agencies including 277 hospitals, 26 medical tourism enterprises registered at the Ministry of Health & Welfare that are able to market themselves to foreign patients. From January to April of 2009, 9,075 foreign patients visited Korea. That represented a 32.1% increase compared with the same period in 2008. There has also been a 41.3% increase in foreign patients after the medical law amendment. The level of technology for cancer treatment and organ transplantation is very high in Korea, however, the costs are only about one tenth of the cost of similar treatments in the U.S.A. Plastic surgery here is also 25-33% lower than it is in Japan. Caesarean sections and spinal surgery is also only a tenth of the cost compared to the U.S.A. and Japan. In the case of China, the Korea National Tourism Organization expects that Chinese medical tourists will increase two or three fold and demand will rise to 35,000-100,000 patients within five years. 40.9% of Chinese and 33.5% of Japanese want Korea as medical vacationland.
Medical Tourism in Other Countries
The medical tourism of Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia in Southeast Asia was developed differently from the relatively immature Korean medical tourism system. Medical tourism takes on different forms in different countries. For example, in Hungary the focus of their medical tourism industry is almost completely on treatment. However, in countries like the U.S. and Singapore an element of traditional tourism is included in treatment packages.
Hungarian implant skills are very famous; Sopron city in Hungary is becoming world famous for being a dental city. There is one dentist per 80 citizens there. Public hospital treatment is practially free, but private hospital treatment fees are a little higher. However, there is no difference in cost in public and private service for foreign patients.
In Singapore, they named medical tourism as a knowledge-based industry in Industry 21, one of the plans in Singapore. As the result of that public work, they attracted 410,000 foreign patients in 2006 and in 2007. Added value tax revenue generated from medical tourism has increased from 15.7 million to 38.7 million and employment in the field has also increased from 200,000 people to 460,000 since 2000.
In the U.S.A., for profit hospitals account for more than half of the total number of hospitals. After the 1980s there was a fundamental shift to a capitalist medical industry, so many facilities and technologies have been developed. Therefore, many patients living in Asia, Africa, South America, Russia, North America, and the Middle East were attracted to the U.S.A.