• International Medical Travel Journal

    Courtesy Of IMTJ - International Medical Travel Journal

  • Courtesy Of IMTJ - International Medical Travel Journal

  • Courtesy Of IMTJ - International Medical Travel Journal

MALAYSIA: National medical tourism figures for 2008 revealed

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:30:47 GMT

About 370,000 foreigners sought medical treatment in Malaysia in 2008, according to health minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. Over the years, the country’s medical tourism industry has registered annual growth of 30 percent. The minister spoke at the awarding of the Joint Commission International’s (JCI) hospital accreditation to the Prince Court Medical Centre (PCMC) in Kuala Lumpur. "Being accredited, especially by an international body, would certainly help in benchmarking the quality services provided by the hospitals. The rapid uptake of accreditation activities by hospitals in Malaysia is testimony to the ministry’s commitment to ensure that healthcare is provided in a safe and effective manner to all our clients, local or from overseas. Our own home-grown hospital accreditation body, the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH), has been awarded this coveted international accreditation by ISQua. Thus, the standards set by both JCI and MSQH are of international stature." Besides PCMC, the Penang Adventist Hospital and the International Eye Specialist Centre in Kuala Lumpur also have JCI accreditation. The Institut Jantung Negara is also working towards it. For the MSQH, 113 hospitals have been surveyed. Sixty five government and 18 private hospitals have received the accreditation. MSQH was formed by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia (APHM) and the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA). Only 35 of APHM’s 111 member hospitals are involved in medical tourism and they are the source of Malaysia’s medical tourism figures. APHM offers a range of medical tourism packages and sets recommended fees for medical tourism hospitals Rhe PCMC expects health tourism to contribute 30 percent of its revenue for the financial year ending March 31, 2010 Said PCMC chief executive Stuart Rowley: "Overseas patients can save up to 60 percent [in their medical cost]. We have 300 beds but only use 85.It does not make sense to use all, but we aim to do so within the next 12 months." Dr Mubbashir Iftikhar, chief executive of Malaysian medical tourism agency Wellness Visit, noted: Malaysia’s excellently maintained healthcare providers are certainly as good as their counterparts in Singapore and Thailand. Malaysia is as competitive in cost as Thailand and much superior in terms of healthcare providers, healthcare infrastructure, English-speaking staff, foreign trained specialist doctors, and strict government rulings on maintaining high standards of healthcare delivery systems. Malaysia is as competitive as Singapore in the quality of healthcare with its world-class hospitals and clinics, world-class renowned surgeons and doctors. Furthermore, Malaysia is offering services at costs less than Singapore. Singapore is no match to Malaysian costs for healthcare.


COLOMBIA: Cosmetic Harmony offers affiliate marketing programme

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:29:48 GMT

Cosmetic Harmony, one of the leading medical tourism agencies in Colombia, launched an affiliate marketing programme to boost the number of foreign patients coming into the country. When a customer arrives at our website via one of our affiliated websites and purchases any one of our cosmetic surgery procedures, the affiliate will get a US$100 commissions. All commissions are paid in every 30 days, said Anthony Giudice of Cosmetic Harmony. Based in Bogota, the company has offices in Miami, Florida and Panama City. Although Americans are the main market, it has served clients from all around the world, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ecuador, Brazil, Netherlands, Panama and the Caiman Islands. Colombia is a country with great potential for health tourism. The professionalism of Colombian doctors and specialists is recognised around the world. In Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital, 122 foreigners have been cared for in the past five years, patients who come seek treatment for illnesses related to orthopedics, urology, internal medicine and cancer. While the country is targeting medical tourists in certain medical specialties, including ophthalmology, orthopaedics, ear-throat-nose, and vascular surgeries, the main reason Americans and others go to Colombia is for cosmetic surgery which costs much lower than in the US. Meanwhile, the Government is about to close a tender with a design consulting firm that will allow the country to promote its health facilities to the international market. This is needed, as until now, marketing from local agencies and hospitals has been sporadic and of variable quality. Economic downturn and recession have caused many anxious Americans to put major purchases on hold. But they don’t wait for an economic upturn when looking for alternative medical treatments overseas. People who are putting financial decisions on hold until the economy recovers could be waiting a very long time," Guidice pointed out. Although Colombia is a much safer place than a few years ago, it still has problems. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned: Though the overall security situation in Colombia has improved considerably in recent years, the threat of terrorism is still high in many parts of the country.  A bomb attack in Bogotá last January 27 killed two people and injured at least 20 others.  Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, and in the vicinity of government buildings and military establishments. Although Bogotá is much safer than outlying areas.


SOUTH KOREA: Country eyes medical tourism boom

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:29:31 GMT

State-licensed clinics and hospitals are now allowed to directly seek foreign patients as part of South Korea’s efforts to become Asia’s new medical tourism hub. Hospitals were barred from directly advertising for patients or accepting them through dedicated referral services. Lee Young-ho, marketing director of the Global Healthcare Business Center, said: We expect about US$221 million in revenue this year in this sector, which will grow fast amid our aggressive overseas marketing. We expect more than 40 local travel agencies and hundreds of hospitals and clinics to apply for state licenses The country expects 50, 000 foreigners will seek treatment in its healthcare facilities this year compared to 27,480 overseas-based patients who arrived in 2008. By 2013, the number of medical travellers to South Korea will reach about 200,000. The Council for Korea Medicine Overseas Promotion, a government-sponsored institution that promotes medical tourism in Korea, said it hopes to raise the number to 140,000 by 2012, but the health ministry expects that figure not to be reached until 2015. On the other hand, critics argued there are still many obstacles to overcome. Questions remain about issues such as visa requirements and possible communication problems, most South Koreans are not fluent in English. Forty-four major hospitals, including the Big Four Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center and Yonsei Severance Hospital and some national and public hospitals will reserve 5 percent of their beds for foreigners. Asiana Airlines, Korea’s second-largest passenger carrier has a new agreement with Hanyang University Medical Center to support and promote medical tourism. American citizens accounted for 34 percent of the country’s total overseas patients last year, but it hopes to attract more patients from Russia, Mongolia and China this year. A group of Korean doctors, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, cosmetic surgeons and others recently visited Tokyo to promote the idea of Korea as a destination for Japanese seeking tummy tucks, corrective eye surgery and other medical procedures. If you come to Korea, dermatologists will provide treatment and medical counselling in Japanese. With advanced and safe dermatology laser treatments, you will become more beautiful while spending less money than you pay for the same treatment in Japan, Ahn Gun-young, president of Gowoon Sesang Clinic, told around 30 Japanese tour agents during the visit. Shinji Yamasaki, who runs Japan’s largest website for seniors, www.seniorcom.jp, said that 30 percent of the company’s members who are over 60 responded in a survey that they are interested in travelling overseas for medical reasons, particularly in getting cosmetic surgery. He explained: Since a large number of Japanese elderly are fond of Korean celebrities and as the price of Korean medical treatment is reasonable, Korean medical tourism has the competitive power to win Japanese customers. The Korea Tourism Organization has launched a trial tour for potential Chinese cosmetic surgery travellers with six Chinese travel agencies. From March to the end of this year, the package will offer Chinese travellers a five-day itinerary including massages, spa and special treatment programmes by dermatologists, along with a visit to popular destinations such as Jeju Island and Seoul. "Through these packages, we plan to make Korea a new destination for medical travel among the Chinese customers, and eventually expand it to the fields of dentistry, oriental medicine and health check-up," said Ahn Yong-hoon of the KTO`s Beijing office. The promotion is likely to remain limited as China currently bans promotion of medical services for serious illnesses. Meanwhile, South Korea is now 30 percent cheaper to visit than it was in the same period last year, revealed Baeho Kim, regional director of the South Korean Tourism Organization in Kuwait when leading a team of medical tourism delegates from three well-known South Korean hospitals, the KonKuk University Medical Center, Wooridul (Spinal) Health Care and the Kyung Hee University (East-West Neo Medical Center). South Korea is now more affordable than ever because of the fluctuation of our currency. So I expect more Kuwaiti citizens to visit Korea this summer. South Korea has made it easier for Kuwaitis to visit the country as a visa is not required for Kuwaiti citizens.


KENYA: Medical tourism opens a new frontier

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:28:59 GMT

Kenya is taking initial steps to get a slice of Africa’s medical tourism business. The 320 bed Nairobi Hospital is eyeing medical tourism for new revenue, as local competition in private healthcare gets tougher. Nairobi Hospital chief executive Dr Cleopa Mailu, said Kenya has a high potential for medical tourism and the hospital has the facilities and manpower necessary to pull it off. The Government should liaise with the private sector in order to diversify our tourism products and services. Nairobi Hospital has invested heavily in diagnostic and treatment facilities and equipment, as well as on our professional human resources. What is lacking is a policy framework and marketing to tap into one of the world’s fastest growing services. The ball is now in the Government’s hands to take the initiative to tap the sector." At present, only a handful of tourists come to local hospitals, although the refurbishment of Kenyatta National Hospital has brought patients from nearby countries into Kenya as medical tourists. The wellness sector is another potential revenue earner for the country. Chale Island is popular among visitors who have their bodies covered with special mud as a form of skin rejuvenation therapy.


DUBAI: First medical tourism patent sought

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:28:42 GMT

Dubai group MRI has filed a United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) patent for technology that enables integration of medical tourism with health insurance. Called Offsurance, the medical tourism product claims to be a novel method of underwriting and implementing low premium health insurance incorporating medical tourism. It will take months for the patent to either be approved or denied, and more software patents are refused than accepted. Dr Fazal Raheman, CEO of MRI said: Offsurance is a path-breaking technology that can potentially reduce the US healthcare expense by over 50 percent. There is absolutely no intellectual property precedence in this exponentially growing segment of healthcare. Because Offsurance is the first and the only pending patent, we target the grant of the patent within the next six to nine months under the USPTO’s new accelerated examination programme. With the speed with which we have developed the technology, we are quite confident of achieving our targets not only of the timely grant of the US patent, but closing strategic alliance deals with corporate partners and investors for the product launch. Offsurance claims to resolve the geographical, organisational and logistic complexities involved in integrating medical tourism with health insurance. MRI is now seeking potential investors and corporate partners to develop the project. Offsurance.com is a venture of MRI Limited, a British company and MRI FZE, a Dubai-based technology development and consulting outfit.   The theory is that Offsurance can offer benefits to members of US health plans at reduced premium or credits. Offsurance offers a very low premium healthcare coverage for elective procedures as well as complex specialised surgeries. Offsurance increases the business of the speciality hospital engaging in medical tourism by assuring a steady flow of patients without having to spend on active marketing. There are some problems: nobody can patent medical tourism, insurance or insurance-linked to medical tourism. Convincing US health plans and health insurers - who are seeing dramatically falling customer numbers, struggling with proposed healthcare reform, fighting tougher insurance regulation, dealing with lower income or losses on investment income, and in some cases, deciding whether merger is the only way to survive - is going to be an uphill struggle. It is doubtful that they would get involved in technology that helps them use medical tourism to cannibalise their own customer base with reduced premiums. Medical tourism analysts have suggested that the patent is just a novel marketing approach when the crowd of companies offering medical tourism to America companies and businesses grows every week. One even mused that it appears to be the patent troll approach common in technology areas to making money based on having a generic IP that will obviously be utilised by other bigger companies. Dr Raheman told IMTJ: Patent trolls do not seek accelerated examination from USPTO in less than a year. If patent trolling was our intent, we would not have business plans and financial and marketing analysis for the potential investors. All of that and product development is a substantial investment on our part, which a patent troll would not make. The idea that my invention can extract millions from potential infringers of my patent is a huge compliment in itself, which brings so much confidence to my investors in my technology. It is not at all an insult, but evidence of how secure the investors’ money in Offsurance will be. He added: Our plan is to launch the product in October, if we are adequately funded. The reason we filed the patent is because we got our first letter of intent last month from a potential investor who is an insurance expert.  We had several meetings with other investors and they insist the patent filing should be as soon as possible as our product development continues.


HUNGARY: European Medical Tourism Alliance formed

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:28:16 GMT

The European Medical Tourism Alliance (EuMTA) is a recently formed not-for-profit organisation based in Hungary, which intends to represent the interests of agencies, clinics and hospitals in the European medical tourism industry. A Hungarian, Balázs Stumpf-Biró is the founder and executive director. It may change its name soon as the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation is keen to work with the organisation, but prefers healthcare travel to healthcare tourism. It is currently discussing membership with clinics, hospitals and operating in, or sending people to, Europe. (EuMTA) aims to: Represent the interests of stakeholders in the medical tourism industry. Harmonise industry activities. Provide compelling alternative solutions for shortcomings in the health care systems of the USA. Bring awareness to Europeans of the existence in Europe of high-quality medical alternatives. * Become an active industry forum. * Develop strong political and private sector lobbying capacity in the EU. * Improve patient mobility and promote free choice of medical provider.Balázs Stumpf-Biró told IMTJ: We are a Brussels-registered pan-European legal entity. For the first months of this year, we have been establishing connections with government and medical institutions as well as acknowledged professionals to gain legitimacy for the organisation. We have just opened up membership. There are some companies lined up and showed their interest to get involved. We are certainly not in a hurry as we believe in quality over quantity. With two existing global trade bodies, and a recent newcomer, IMTJ asked why a fourth was needed. An independent European trade association is necessary as this is how the majority of industry players feel. MTA is based in the United States, IMTA is in Singapore, how could we expect any of them to be a true representative of European interests? Or get along with the really specific EU legislation? We have shown our interest to both organisations for strong cooperation and working together, towards a transparent and safe global healthcare. No positive answer arrived yet from either. The organisation believes that while Europe has for many years been  active and attractive within Europe, the quality of medical care and healthcare facilities is less well-known elsewhere. Europe could become a bigger player if countries and organisations in it work together and promote the quality of care, significant saving within Europe compared to some EU countries or the USA, and that it is a much safer travel destination than many competitors. Once the key European participants in medical tourism are united in an entity that will represent and defend their interests in key markets, then it will be possible to promote Europe to people who now look elsewhere EuMTA is an European Economic Interest Grouping as defined by EU rules. So companies in different companies can work together in ways that do not breach strict rules on anti-competitive behaviour. There are three main categories of members; Founding (who bring capital), Full (from European Economic Area [EEA] countries) and Supporting (from inside or outside the EEA). To ensure European interests are foremost, only Full members have voting rights. It will be run by an executive director and four other board directors, with an advisory panel of experts. Membership projections are modest, with 60 in 2009, 80 in 2010 and 120 in 2011.


POLAND: Medical tourism opportunity for Poland

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:27:55 GMT

A Medical Tourism Chamber of Commerce formed late last year for clinics offering medical services to foreigners. The aim is to develop the Polish tourism and medical market and promote it throughout the world. The Chamber’s President Artur Gosk believes that medical tourism in Poland has a very good future. Today we can say with some certainty that the medical services market is a market that will be developing irrespective of world economic turbulence, and a product in the form of medical services that is price competitive and generally available will draw many patients. We are aware that it is a difficult task, but we have a good start. For the last few years, world medical tourism has been concentrated in such countries as Thailand, Turkey, Malta and India. New European Union countries such as Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have also started to realise their potential. We know that the Polish medical market has a huge potential; we have many health centres specialising in rehabilitation and in the treatment of various diseases. Our private medical clinics are on a par with medical services offered abroad, and the medical staff in these centres is highly qualified. Seeing the potential in Polish health care, the Chamber wants to convert it into an export product. We talk to many institutions, both government and non-government institutions about the development of this field and we are often told that it is a niche product. The Medical Tourism Chamber of Commerce believes that a good climate exists to promote Polish medical tourism. Poland is in a good position to become a leader. Poland has two advantages. One is proximity of countries such as Britain, Germany and Ireland, Norway and Sweden, from which patients readily use medical tourism services and with which we have good transport links. Another is the value of the Polish currency, which means that Poland is very competitive in terms of sales of medical tourism services. Now is a good time to invest in promotion so that Polish medical centres and health resorts are able to develop a reputation and a brand name. The new organisation has developed a number of programmes to assist Polish medical centres in reaching the international market.


MIDDLE EAST: Focus on quality

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:27:23 GMT

JCI’s new Middle East managing director Ashraf Ismail argues globalisation and the availability of information via the Internet, mean that improving healthcare quality and safety is no longer optional for hospitals. "If healthcare quality is not adequate in the hospital, patients will look around for better quality. If they do not improve quality and safety, they will lose their business. Accreditation is an excellent framework that helps organizations to achieve their quality goals in a systematic, measurable way. Achieving JCI accreditation also provides the international recognition to organisations for their commitment to quality and safety." Ismail admits that the healthcare industry in the Middle East has a long way to go and accredited facilities in the region still represent a very small percentage of all hospitals. There is no way to develop business in healthcare without improving quality and safety. Quality increases market share as hospitals build on their reputation. To build their reputation, hospitals must put customers first and consider patient safety and quality." Qatar’s health minister, Sheikha Ghalia bint Mohammed Al Thani, said the government is committed to launching one new hospital every year until 2011 at the Hamad Medical City, the state-backed medical complex being built on the site of the athlete’s village used during the 2006 Asian Games. The city will include a paediatric hospital and a neurology hospital. The Women’s Hospital will be shifted to the city. By 2011, Hamad Medical City will be a reality." Qatar’s Ministry of Health aims to boost the quality of health care on offer at public and private sector hospitals. It has launched the country’s first healthcare quality department that will assess the level of services provided by all healthcare providers. Qatar has created a new watchdog to look after health services provided by both the government and the private sector in the Gulf state. Known as the Supreme Council for Health, it has been empowered to fix the tariff of medical services provided by the state as well as private operators and decide on the pricing of medicines. This is in response to some hospitals overcharging patients in general and medical tourists in particular. The Saudi Arabian government has recognised that it cannot finance a sustainable healthcare sector. It seeks to restructure the management of the existing 218 government hospitals into private enterprises. Any additional hospitals or clinics built will be private. The Saudi Ministry of Health authorities are progressing toward regulating medical services instead of financing the provision of healthcare. It is believed that eventually, this will reverse the trend for patients to travel abroad for treatment, as privatisation will raise the quality of medical care offered. Several Middle East countries are now encouraging hospitals to achieve international accreditation with either JCI, Australian Council of Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) or Accreditation Canada International. Accreditation Canada International has eight approved hospitals in the Middle East with two seeing approval. ACHSI has six accredited and three seeking approval, while JCI has 53 approved and at least one seeking approval. Middle East states have two reasons for wanting international accreditation, the main one is to convince doubting locals that they do not need to go abroad for quality care, the secondary one being to seek a share of the global medical tourism business.


CROATIA: Medical tourism in Croatia

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:26:47 GMT

Medical Group has contracted Knowledge Network to produce a feasibility study on developing the first centre for medical tourism in Croatia. The Centre is to provide health, education and hospitality services at a convenient urban location on the Dalmatian coast (less than one-hour drive from Split and Zadar international airports). It will consist of medical facilities and an accompanying 4-star hotel with spa and wellness facilities. The project is to be developed through two modules medical facilities (special hospital) and hotel facilities. Medical services to be provided within a special hospital will include dentistry, physical medicine, surgery, cosmetic surgery and diagnostics. The hotel will provide accommodation for tourists and patients, conferences spa and wellness centre and leasable area for shops, pharmacy etc. Medical Group is a Croatian firm that believes the country has excellent medical professionals and many attractive tourist destinations, so sees an opportunity in promoting and developing medical tourism in Croatia. It wants to attract patients and their families from all around the world by providing high quality medical services. The centre will be located in the city of Vodice, one of the most popular destinations in the Dalmatian coast. Vodice has a Mediterranean climate, exceptional natural beauty and good traffic connections with the rest of the country. Medical Group has also founded a Croatian association for the development of the medical tourism. The association is for existing providers of medical tourism services and those who are planning to do so. Main objectives are the development of medical tourism in Croatia, promotion of the association members in domestic and foreign markets and promotion of the need for medical tourism development in Croatia. The association is to promote services, connect all parties involved in the distribution chain (service providers, agents and hoteliers and transporters) and provide support in approach to foreign patients and development of medical tourism services standard. The association plans to be a business excellence centre that gathers medical and tourism experts. The idea is to facilitate knowledge and experience exchange between its members and organise conferences, symposiums, discussions and other gatherings. The two driving forces behind the new association and the centre are Dr Iljenko Bura, a surgeon at KBC Zagreb hospital and Goran Nedoklan, founder of the Matell Dental Centre in Vodice, and a pioneer of medical tourism in Croatia.


SINGAPORE: US-based company launches Singapore search site

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:26:07 GMT

Aimed at attracting more Americans to Singapore for medical treatment, a new website helps users find specific specialists, review their credentials and request consultations. Singapore Tourism Board (STB) launched Singapore Destination Medicine in collaboration with MedicaView International to streamlines the process of searching, comparing and selecting Singapore healthcare services online. Targeting medical travellers, particularly from North America, the site offers a resource for those seeking high quality and affordable healthcare outside the US. The clean and user-friendly site features a simple form to select doctors or hospitals in Singapore, based on the required medical procedure. Users can call up accreditation information, doctors’ credentials and request cost estimates at selected medical institutions. John Linss of MedicaView International commented: "North American patients who have already travelled for healthcare to Singapore have discovered that high quality of care can be combined with affordable prices and the demand for such services is growing. There is no question that North American patients will be very comfortable visiting Singapore’s clean and modern city. The low incidence of crime, prevalent use of English and high level of service and hospitality will be very well received by them. Notable extras on the site include a continuity of care programme that can link stateside doctors with offshore surgeons to provide for electronic medical records to be stored in a secure collaborative environment where doctors from both sides can collaborate over the case. Surgical complications and travel insurance is also available to cover most eventualities related to travel and health care procedures. Travel options can be accessed directly from the site. Singapore Destination Medicine also provides for the syndication of Singapore healthcare services across other sites; DestinationMed, Global Patient Services, MedicaView.com and additional sites to be announced soon. Launched in 2003, SingaporeMedicine is a multi-agency government-industry partnership committed to strengthening Singapore’s position as a leading medical hub and international health care destination in Asia. Led by the Ministry of Health of Singapore, SingaporeMedicine is supported by three government agencies: the Economic Development Board, which develops industry capabilities, the International Enterprise Singapore, which fosters regionalism by Singapore-based health care players, and the Singapore Tourism Board, which markets Singapore as a healthcare destination to inbound international patients. MedicaView International (MVI) is a US company. Its Global Connect platform enables global and/or local online interaction and commerce between accredited healthcare providers, consumers and other healthcare related entities.


Women's Museum