I saw the headline “Five Medical Tourism Myths” that is the title of an article over at the IMJT blog and it caught my eye because not long ago I published here an article that included three common myths about medical tourism to Thailand. So I jumped over and read it but alas, they are writing about a different facet of the industry. The IMJT story is from the point of view of medical tourism professionals whereas my story is from the point of view of medical tourists themselves.
If you recall from my story I pointed out that 1) it is a myth that there is no recourse for medical malpractice in Thailand, 2) when people say there is no followup care when you have a procedure done in Thailand they are actually saying they didn’t stick around for it because indeed all the followup care you need is available, and 3) patients wrongfully assume that English is widely spoken by medical staff in Thai hospitals. These are different issues than a medical tourism promoter is pushing when they talk about growth rate and accredidation and building fancy facilities to attract foreign patients. Those myths do indeed seem to be a lot of hype and not so much substance.
But then I see in the comments someone posts their list of “myths”. There are nine of them. Here’s one now:
Patients traveling abroad can save up to to 90% on a procedure, including their travel expenditures
Um, that is no myth my friend. It isn’t true in all cases but it certainly is true in many cases. In fact in some cases it is more than a 90% savings. It is easy to make such claims so I don’t pay much attention unless there is some evidence to back it up. I have read a number of cases that do include credible looking evidence. But beyond that, I have my own case when I had foot surgery at Siriraj Hospital. It wasn’t until recently that I did a price comparison and found that the same procedure (as best as I can determine) in the U.S. would have cost 20 times what I paid in Thailand. I got the comparitive cost from Health Care Bluebook here. If I added in the cost of travel and some extras then I would probably be looking at about a 90% lower price. And this was at Thailand’s preeminent orthopedic hospital under the care of one of the country’s top podiatrists. You might say “so what, big fish in small pond in a country like Thailand” and you would be wrong.
Another so-called myth that commenter listed was this:
Patients in UK travel to avoid long waiting periods
I don’t know the statistics but I do know some people who came from the UK to Thailand for treatment for that very reason. It’s been discussed on forums a great deal over the years. So what’s going on? A small handful of shills are making the rounds of forums posting this myth to try to boost medical tourism? Also, the UK isn’t the only source. I have spoken with a few Canadians who came to Thailand so they could walk in and get a medical procedure without a wait.
Another of his “myths” is this one:
By encouraging its presence in the medical tourism market, a country can stimulate its economic growth and create employment opportunities.
You know, that is exactly what Thailand did back in the 1990’s. Now days there are several hundred thousand medical tourists per year visiting Thailand. Seems like that would in fact create employment opporunities and benefit the economy. Maybe the commenter is saying that it can no longer be done. Or maybe that people shouldn’t expect quick results, which is indeed true; it took many years for Thailand’s medical tourism sector to grow to what it is today.
And what about this statistic:
Thailand, India and Singapore accounted for 60% of the total revenue of the Asian region in 2012.
Is that a myth? It actually seems pretty low. Other than South Korea which is a big destination for cosmetic surgery, what other country in Asia do people go to for medical treatment?