Health care used to be very localised, but nowadays it has become an international business. With today's ease of travel and differences in healthcare services, many patients travel from one country to another seeking better care at lower cost. This is called "medical tourism" and has been promoted for many years, with countries such as Singapore and Thailand in the forefront.
With the coming of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) less than three years away, much excitement has been generated in business circles, and health care is one of the sectors to be internationalised. What will be the effects on investment in healthcare enterprises? Will there be an influx of foreign doctors and nurses coming to work in Thailand? Are we going to pay more for healthcare services? Will the services be of higher quality? How about the current system of universal healthcare coverage _ will the AEC do away with that?
Interest in the effects of the AEC and the response of hospitals to it has been mostly defensive in nature _ how do we prevent "foreign capital and care professionals" from "invading" Thailand? The same question may be raised by other Asean members. While these questions are valid and have a place in the evolution of these sectors, it must be emphasised that the best way to be defensive is to be offensive.
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