Support from all sides needed to fulfil Thailand’s medical hub dreams

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2024

Surveys show that the Thai medical sector needs backing from both public and private sectors to attract more foreign tourists

Turning Thailand into a medical hub will require support from both the public and private sectors, survey findings from the Department of Health Service Support and Bank of Thailand (BOT) show.

The central bank said Thailand ranked 17th in the Global Healthcare Accreditation Medical Tourism Index between 2020 and 2021, adding that most foreign patients come to the country for cosmetic or orthopaedic surgery and dentistry.

Citing the 2023 Allied Market Research, BOT said that the value of global medical tourism would expand from 3.7 trillion baht to 8.5 trillion baht in 2027. Medical tourism in Thailand, meanwhile, is expected to grow from 310 billion baht to 760 billion baht by 2027.

The reason behind the rapid expansion of medical tourism in Thailand is the high cost for the same treatment in developed countries, it said.

In a survey covering 95 Thai private hospitals in 2021, BOT learned that most foreign patients in Thailand came from the Middle East and Asia, including Kuwait, Qatar, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates and Cambodia.

Hospitals’ in-patient department generated the highest revenue of 18.75 billion baht, followed by 15.33 billion baht in the out-patient department, BOT said, adding that hospitals in Bangkok generated the highest revenue of 28.97 billion baht.

The central bank, however, advised Thailand’s medical industry to improve its services to meet foreign patients’ demand for top-quality treatment at a reasonable price.

Citing a Medical Tourism Association’s survey, the central bank said improvements were needed in the following sectors:    

  • Facilitating easy access to medical treatment as well as adopting health technology and specialised medical services such as genomic medicine, medical artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and telemedicine
  • Preparing for intense competition with countries that also promote medical tourism like Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea
  • Offering deals to encourage foreigners to include physical examination in their itinerary when travelling in Thailand

Although private hospitals have imported health technology and specialised treatment, the Thai medical industry still requires support from the public and private sectors to achieve medical hub status, the central bank added.