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Medical Tourism in the Land of Smiles

What do you think of when you hear the term “medical tourism?” is it a tour of medical facilities or a hiatus for students to travel abroad and learn about medicine in international locations? Actually, the term has become more and more mainstream as the economic downturns and all around changes in how the world works are changing the way we live and engage with marketing and consumerism around us. If you need a hip replacement or knee surgery, you might find yourself on your way to Thailand as more companies in the states are outsourcing their employee’s medical needs. Recently, the grocery store chain Hannaford Bros. in Maine signed its employees on to travel to Singapore for their hip and knee replacements. Programs like these are getting increased attention as Americans try to deal with continually rising health costs amidst insurance companies’ demands. The healthcare market is responding by offering international healthcare at the same standards or higher to Americans and others from more developed countries. Many individuals as well as some insurance companies are opting for what will inevitably be the future for medical treatment as developing countries “catch up” to many of the technologies that were once exclusive to the west. Among the top places that have the highest quality healthcare outside of the United States are Thailand, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Quality Care in Bangkok

Thailand’s medical tourism industry really got a push during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Many hospitals went bankrupt while the ones to survive invested in soliciting patients from developed countries by receiving international certification. One of the most well-known hospitals to do this was Bumrungrad in Thailand and most westerners are pleasantly surprised by the impeccable service there and impressive five-star hotel atmosphere that outshines most American hospitals. The most common treatments here are cosmetic, cardiac, organ transplants, and orthopedic, as well as psychiatric and alternative therapies. Many, if not most physicians in this hospital as well as many others, hold certification from the UK or USA thereby raising the standard to the highest level possible in terms of delivery of medical care. Over one and a half million foreigners come to be treated in Thai hospitals. The quality of medical facilities and technology has increased tenfold over the last several decades and people are starting to recognize this and dipping their feet into medical tourism.

One of the best dental clinics in Thailand is Khao San Dental Clinic, which is very popular with dental implants in Thailand.

Facing the Future

Political factors such as if the Obamacare bill is overturned, might mean that Americans will have to search for healthcare outside of the American system. One of the reasons for the lower medical costs is that the wages for the average employee are very low in a hospital in a developing country. The best way for someone who is new to the concept of medical tourism is to get acclimated to it by getting a simple procedure performed such as teeth whitening and compare the quality of the service to the same service back home. From there, consumers can gain confidence in the safety and quality of the medical care and proceed towards more complicated procedures.


Dr Ying is a medical writer.

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