Despite social and political unrest over the past few years, Thailand’s steadily rising economy has brought this land of 67 million into the ranks of industrialized nations. Longtime the world’s largest exporter of rice, Thailand now also has a firm foothold in electronics and light manufacturing, along with a rising urban middle class.
In response, the Thai government has dramatically overhauled its healthcare system over the past decade, providing 19 million Thais with universal health coverage along with new hospitals, state-of-the-art instrumentation, technology, and healthcare services.
Thais are known for their exceptional hospitality, one reason why Thailand is one of Asia’s top tourism destinations. Service and graciousness extends deep into the clinical experience as well; Western healthcare providers would be prudent to examine Thailand’s version of patient-centered care!
Thailand’s world-renown spas and wellness resorts, often set in breathtaking coastal surroundings, make this remarkable land even more appealing to the health traveler, particularly in a world now more conscious of preventable disease and alternative treatment strategies. Medical spas such as the S-Spa in Bangkok have led the world in combining relaxation with clinical procedures under medical supervision.
Thailand and Medical Travel
Although it now shares the spotlight with India, Singapore, and Malaysia, Thailand is the rightful wellspring of contemporary medical tourism. Fifteen years ago, with the crash of the Thai baht, business and governmental leaders capitalized on Thailand’s excellent medical infrastructure to attract US expatriates and cross-border patients from nearby countries with less robust healthcare choices.
Patients from the Middle East, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were rapidly followed by European clients. Today, thousands of Americans and Canadians also head to Bangkok or Phuket, mostly to save on elective surgeries with lower costs that more than compensate for the uncomfortably long flight.
Asia’s first JCI accreditation went to a hospital in Bangkok. Nineteen Thai hospitals are now JCI accredited, ten since 2010.
Thailand’s huge medical calling card is Bangkok’s venerated, JCI-accredited Bumrungrad International Hospital, covering a million-square-foot complex in downtown Bangkok. More than 900 full-time and consulting physicians representing every imaginable specialty and subspecialty practice there—nearly 300 are US board certified.
Bumrungrad has set the pace for both the quality and quantity of contemporary international healthcare throughout Asia and the world. Bumrungrad’s large presence is not without its competition, and the equally impressive Dusit Medical Group owns and operates a large network of hospitals throughout Thailand, including Bangkok International Hospital, Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Bangkok General Hospital, and Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital.
Thailand offers the medical traveler far more than the transgender procedures that often occupy the media limelight. Specialties include cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, cardiology, IFV/reproductive medicine, spine surgery, and dentistry. Despite rising standards of living, Thailand remains one of the world’s best values, with cost savings on medical procedures ranging from 40-60 percent over out-of-pocket fees found in US, EU, and Japan.
Although not Thailand’s native tongue, English is becoming more widely spoken in Thai cities and resort centers, and English is taught as a second language in Thai schools. While extremes of wealth and poverty can be readily witnessed, health travelers may feel more comfortable in Thai culture than in India or South Africa.
Last updated on 9 March 2013