Foreign patients buoy private hospitals

Foreign patients buoy private hospitals

With strong support from the Thai government to promote medical tourism at a time when the Asean has become a single economic community, demand for Thai medical services from foreigners is expected to rise substantially over the next several years, according to the Kasikorn Research Centre (K-Research).

The research house said medical tourism is expected to play a major role in generating more revenue for Thai private hospitals to help offset revenue drops as local purchasing power has been dented by the gloomy economic outlook.

The report showed that revenue generated from foreign patients in Thai private hospitals rose from 25% in 2011 to 30% in 2015. This trend is expected to continue over the next several years.

"With increasingly health-conscious foreign tourists and the integration of the Asean Economic Community, the number of foreigners coming into Thailand as medical tourists is expected to rise substantially," the report said.

Besides tourists, there are expats working in Thailand as well as in neighbouring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, where medical service standards remain low, encouraging them to come into Thailand, where the standards are higher.

According to the report, the number of expats coming to Thailand for medical services grew 6.3% annually from 2009-2014.

"The K-Research Centre expects the number of medical tourists and the number of expats using Thai medical services to rise further. Competition among Thai private hospitals, however, is also expected to intensify, especially for those who are ranked as major players in the market," the report said.

Medical services that are popular among foreigners include standard check-ups, which account for 17% of foreign patients, cosmetic surgery (14%) and dental services (11)%.

People from Myanmar and the Middle East accounted for the largest proportion of foreign patients.

"Although there is room to grow in terms of capitalising on rising demand from Myanmar and the Middle East, there are also several big competitors who are also eying those countries," the report said.

To capitalise on the growing trend of medical tourism, the report recommended that Thai private hospitals expand their customer base to other Asian states that have strong growth potential, including Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

"The high standard of Thai medical services, which is widely recognised, is the core strength of the Thai medical industry that can be used to help expand its customer base to offset the drop in revenue from Thai patients," the research said.

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