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A Critical Look At Healthcare In Thailand

Some time ago I created a lens on Squidoo that was about medical tourism in Thailand. That lens took a more critical look at the overall subject than you usually see in fluff pieces promoting the industry. At the same time, it highlighted a few myths commonly promulgated by detractors of whole medical tourism concept. Well, today I received a notice from Squidoo that after all this time Squidoo has flagged that lens and plans to unpublish it. The reason given was “low quality”. I beg to differ. That’s a pretty good lens in my opinion. So I’m taking that off Squidoo and publishing it here in the post below.

Operating RoomThailand has been a premier medical tourism destination for years and continues to be a favorite of patients from around the world. Its major private hospitals combine world class medical care with famous Thai hospitality at a fraction of the cost of treatment in the west. These are the headline bullets you see in nearly every news story and article about Thai medical tourism and in general they are accurate. In this lens we go beyond the headlines and examine the realities of receiving health care in Thailand. At times it does live up to its reputation. At others not so much. We will look beyond the glitz of the swank lobbies of the private hospitals such as Bumrungrad and reveal some of the real values in Thailand medical care.

Beyond The Headlines

Bumrungrad International Hospital
News stories and promotional websites invariably mention several major points for seeking medical care in Thailand – world class facilities, western trained and certified doctors, care delivered with that famous Thai hospitality, and the low costs. Other news stories have scary headlines questioning the quality of health care in “third world countries.” It is important to get past the headlines and do some investigation into the realities of medical tourism in Thailand. This article will get you started by busting a few myths, poking some holes in negative press, and offering a list of hospitals that is more extensive than the short list of glamorous hospitals you usually see.

Common Myths About Thailand Healthcare

No malpractice recourse Good news, not true!
It is often stated that if a patient is the victim of medical malpractice in Thailand they have no recourse. This myth is probably based simply on a lack of knowledge. There is, in fact, a government organization specifically for patient victims called the Thai Medical Council. This organization, however, has been criticized for being too slow in resolving cases. As a result, some victims go to the courts to seek relief. That path is also very time consuming, just as it is every where in the world. Patients who prevail through the courts do receive awards. However, in Thailand there are no windfall judgments that award huge amounts for emotional distress. Victims receive monies for the cost of care only. That is one of the major reasons that medical care is less costly in Thailand.

In August 2008 there was new legislation passed in Thailand called the Consumer Case Procedures Act which streamlines the process of filing any type of consumer related case, including malpractice against a doctor or hospital. Under the CCPA you can file a case without a lawyer and without paying any filing fees. The CCPA also shifts the burden of proof to the doctors and hospitals – they must prove that a victim’s condition was not the result of their negligence rather than the victim having to prove that it was.

No follow up care Good news, not true!
Another common criticism of medical tourism in Thailand is the lack of follow-up care. This is a complete myth as follow-up care is always available. It’s just that patients so often plan for a limited time in Thailand before they must return to their own countries so they cut short the optimal follow-up care period. Then if complications arise they often have difficulties with costs of follow-up care back home. This is something for which the patient needs to plan. Either spend a long enough time in Thailand to ensure all needs for follow-up care are met, or have a solid backup plan for follow-up care in your home country.

Everyone speaks English Bad news, not true!
Unfortunately, it is not true that all the doctors and staff at Thailand’s international hospitals speak English. Many of the doctors were trained and practiced in the U.S. and Europe so obviously those doctors are fluent in English. But many more doctors speak only broken English and many patients find that unsettling, to say the least. When it comes to your medical care, good communication with your doctor is essential. So you should not assume any doctor assigned to you will be sufficient – insist on a doctor that has trained and practiced in an English speaking country. The hospital staff in many of the international hospitals have even less English language fluency than the doctors. Some hospitals assign a “patient ambassador” who follows you around and translates as necessary. In some cases the nurses and technicians communicate in English very well so an ambassador is not even needed. In other cases you may get instructions from staff in broken English so beware.

Major Private Hospitals In Thailand

The following list contains what would be classified as the major private hospitals that would be reasonable choices for a medical tourist to Thailand.

  • Bangkok Hospital
    Bangkok Dusit Medical Services is the parent company that runs a chain of hospitals spanning the country.
  • BNH Hospital
    Formerly known as Bangkok Nursing Home it is another highly rated private hospital in Bangkok.
  • Bumrungrad International
    The most famous and the hospital that really started the whole medical tourism phenomenon.
  • Chiang Mai Ram
    Part of the Ramkhamhaeng Hospital group.
  • Mission Hospital
  • Phyathai
  • Piyavate
  • Praram 9
  • Ramkhamhaeng
  • Saint Louis
  • Samitivej
  • Vejthani
  • Yanhee Hospital
    Most famous for cosmetic surgery and sex reassignment. The preferred choice for many Asian patients.

Each of those hospitals is practically worth an article itself so it is too much to review them all here. But just having the names of the major hospitals that you should consider as a medical tourist you can Google them.

JCI Certified Hospitals

Joint Commission International is one of the most recognized certifying authority for hospitals around the world. It is a private sector United States-based not-for-profit organization that operates accreditation programs for a fee to subscriber hospitals and other health care organizations.

Many state governments in the U.S. require hospitals to have JCI certification in order to receive an operating license and to receive Medicaid reimbursement. However, JCI is not the only hospital accreditation organization. There are similar organizations in the U.S. and others based in the UK, Australia, Canada and India. Having JCI certification, however, gives an indication that a hospital meets or exceeds minimum standards in care and patient safety. However, many excellent hospitals do not subscribe to it and being certified does not guarantee you will receive the best possible care. So a medical tourist should not choose a hospital based only on JCI certification.

Many of the major private hospitals in Thailand have received JCI certification. Here is the current list. Note that a particular hospital group may have more than one medical center and each may have its own certification.

Bangkok Hospital Medical Center
Bangkok , Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 30 June 2007

Program: DCSC Certification
Acute Coronary Syndrome
First Certified: 30 October 2008

Program: DCSC Certification
Breast Cancer Conserving Therapy Program
First Certified: 1 November 2008

Program: DCSC Certification
Heart Failure Program
First Certified: 29 October 2008

Program: DCSC Certification
Primary Stroke Center
First Certified: 31 October 2008

Bangkok Hospital Pattaya
Chonburi, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 19 September 2009

Bangkok Hospital Phuket
Phuket, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 23 May 2009

BNH Hospital
Bangkok, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 29 May 2009

Bumrungrad International
Bangkok , Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 2 February 2002
Re-Accredited: 8 April 2005
Re-Accredited: 31 July 2008

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Primary Stroke Program
First Certified: 28 October 2006
Re-certified: 25 November 2009

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Acute Myocardial Infarction with ST Segment Elevation
First Certified: 28 October 2006
Re-certified: 27 November 2009

Program: CCPC Certification Program
Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 and 2
First Certified: 24 March 2010

Program: CCPC Certification Program
Chronic Kidney Disease Stage I to IV
First Certified: 26 March 2010

Chiangmai Ram Hospital
Chiangmai, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Certified: 7 November 2009

Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital
Bangkok , Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 11 August 2007

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Low Back Pain program
First Certified: 14 August 2009

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Primary Stroke program
First Certified: 12 August 2009

Samitivej Sriracha Hospital
Chonburi, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 8 November 2008

Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital
Bangkok, Thailand
Program: Hospital
First Accredited: 27 January 2007
Re-accredited: 13 February 2010

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Lung Cancer Program
First Certified: 6 December 2008

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Acute Myocardial Infarction Program
First Certified: 4 December 2008

Program: DCSC Certification Program
Osteoarthritis of the Knee Program
First Certified: 15 August 2009

Introducing Vejthani Hospital

As an example that there is more to Thailand’s medical tourism than Bumrungrad, this video introduces another lesser know private hospital with all the facilities and amenities we have come to expect from private hospitals in Thailand.

One Response to “A Critical Look At Healthcare In Thailand”

  1. 5 Myths Versus 3 Myths | The Medical Travel Site Says:

    […] 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. […]

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