Medical Tourism Takes Flight

Article excerpt

Byline: Jaser A. Marasigan

For a growing number of travelers, the lure of an affordable medical care and an attentive room service are enough reasons to pack a suitcase and board a plane.

Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon. It has been around for decades. However, many more people are taking advantage of it. It has long been practiced by the locals of North Africa and the Middle East and people from Hollywood to fly to the spas and clinics in Switzerland for treatments.

St. Luke's Medical Center is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art facilities.

A few years ago, medical tourism was hardly large enough to be noticed. Today, more than 250,000 patients a year visit Singapore alone, nearly half of them are from the Middle East. In the Philippines, an average of 100,000 foreign patients travel to the country for medical care, according to the Philippine Medical Tourism Organization.

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As the Philippines sets its sights to becoming the most desirable health and wellness haven in the world, the country hosted the recently concluded 2nd International Medical Travel Conference (IMTC) organized by the Department of Tourism (DoT) and Singapore-based Avail Corporation.

The four-day event, held at the Intercontinental Manila, gathered some of the top healthcare experts from the United States, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. The IMTC was launched last year in Singapore.

The Medical City's fully-furnished suite."IMTC is the first step to be part of the $ 40 billion medical travel industry with over 780 million patients seeking faster, less expensive and world-class medical care outside their country of residence," said DoT director Elizabeth Nelle of the Office of Product Research and Development.

"Insurers are looking for cost-effective alternatives to contain cost escalation in the health sector and providers are responding by developing business models to targeted medical travelers," she added.

Medical tourism will be particularly attractive in the US, wherein more than 45 million citizens have no health insurance, according to former Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Bengzon. "People in developed countries look for other options in other countries and the Philippines produces the most number of medical professionals that are recognized worldwide," he said.

"The market for medical tourism will continue to expand in the years ahead," he added. …