Thailand

Thailand is a kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the ninth king of the House of Chakri, who has reigned since 1946, making him the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. Thailand has also attracted a number of expatriates from developed countries. The country’s official language is Thai. It is primarily Buddhist, which is practiced by around 95% of all Thais. Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1995 and is a newly industrialized country with tourism, due to well-known tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, and exports contributing significantly to the economy.

Thailand has been very aggressive in establishing itself as a premier international medical tourism destination (Discover Medical Tourism). Thailand is one of the world’s preferred destinations for all types of treatment including medical, cosmetic and dental procedures.hailand has all but established itself as king of the castle when it comes to international medical tourism (MedTrava). Bangkok has the most advanced medical tourist infrastructure in Thailand, with the likes of the world-renowned Bumrungrad Hospital, which itself sees 1,000 foreigners a day.

The number of medical tourists is ever expanding. Medical tourism has been a growing segment of Thailand’s tourism and health-care sectors. In 2005, one Bangkok hospital took in 150,000 treatment seekers from abroad. In 2006, medical tourism was projected to earn the country 36.4 billion baht.

Medical tourists come to Thailand for a wide range of procedures and treatments: alternative medicine, cosmetic surgery, dental care, gender realignment, heart surgery, obesity surgery, oncology, orthopedics. Treatment ranges from major surgery and plastic surgery to dental surgery and extensive check-ups. LASIK eye surgery and allergy testing and treatment are also popular. Treatments for medical tourists in Thailand range from cosmetic, organ transplants, cardiac, and orthopaedic treatments to dental and cardiac surgeries. Treatments also include spa, physical and mental therapies.

Many North Americas make up to three trips over the period of a year to receive extended dental surgery, and still come out saving significant amounts of money. Bumrungrad treated approximately 55,000 American patients in 2005 alone, a 30% increase from the previous year. Hospitals in Thailand are a popular destination for other Asians. Bangkok Hospital, which caters to medical tourists, has a Japanese wing, and Phyathai Hospitals Group has interpreters for over 22 languages, besides the English-speaking medical staff. When Nepal Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala needed medical care in 2006, he went to Bangkok.

Advantages

Thailand is one of the world’s top tourism destinations, so it is long accustomed to receiving foreign travelers. English is spoken widely in large cities, especially at private clinics that will interest tourists looking for treatment. Although quality is high, travel and procedure costs will usually be lower than the price of the procedure in North America. In addition, Thailand has much to offer the tourist, so it will certainly remain a favorite medical tourism destination for a long time to come.

Thailand’s prices are a bit higher on average than India’s, with the main advantages being a better overall tourist experience and more bundling of services. Thailand is known for its masterful dentists. Many North Americas make up to three trips over the period of a year to receive extended dental surgery, and still come out saving significant amounts of money. Restaurants, although relatively inexpensive, are sanitary, and food borne illness is rare.

With the popularity of Thai hospitals, you would think the main hospitals would have long waiting times. The reality is, however, that you can register online with the likes of Bumrungrad Hospital, research and select the doctor of your choice, choose an appointment date and time, and be in and out in next to no time. The level of service in Thailand’s best private hospitals is second to none, with high staff numbers and quality equipment, meaning shorter waiting times for everything from the simplest of procedures right up to the most complex surgeries. The medical care at these private establishments is of a high standard, with well-trained, certified staff and state-of-the-art equipment.

Disadvantages

While most medical practitioners in Thailand are experienced and well qualified, there are some doctors whose reputations can be less than ideal. Medical tourists should shop around to make sure they are getting the best treatment possible and that the price is not the only consideration.

Virtually all doctors in Thailand’s best private hospitals will have had some training in the US or Europe and can speak fluent English. This is also so in the best government-run hospitals, while specialist clinics employ bilingual Thai staff.

Many Thai physicians hold US or UK professional certification. Bumrungrad International hospital states that many of its doctors and staff are trained in the UK, Europe and the US.

More and more hospitals are being accredited by JCAHO (the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health care Organizations)Bumrungrad Hospital annually cares for upwards of 400,000 foreign patients, and many of its staff are accredited in the US and the UK. This was also the first hospital in Asia to seek international accreditation. Bangkok General Hospital is second in line, treating 150,000 foreign patients every year. Thailand’s top private hospitals and clinics, of which most are located in the capital, are internationally accredited (ISO 1900-2000) In addition to the ISO accreditation of the major hospitals, Samitivej and Bumrungrad in Bangkok have also received Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. Specialist clinics, including laser eye clinics and dental clinics, are also found in tourist areas around the country and many come with ISO accreditation. Many Thai physicians hold US or UK professional certification. Bumrungrad International hospital states that many of its doctors and staff are trained in the UK, Europe and the US. Bumrungrad International was accredited most recently in 2005 by the Joint Commission.[104] Some of the country’s major hospitals have also achieved certification by the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 9001:2000. However, ISO 2000 is not an accreditation scheme.

Thailand and Southeast Asia have three seasons, and it is critical to choose the right time of year. The rainy season can be unpleasant when city streets flood. The summer season can see very high temperatures, humidity and pollution. Serious political problems dog the country since 2008, including mass demonstrations and the complete closure of major airports, have made travel to Thailand less appealing than in the past, and the US State Department has issued a travel alert for the country.

Dengue fever has been on the rise in recent years in urban areas, so mosquito repellent is important.

Cost Comparisons

Procedure

UK (USD)

Thailand (USD)

Hip resurfacing $15,750 $11,421
Hip replacement $14,000 $9,244
Liposuction $5,250 $3,245
Breast augmentation $7,613 $3,022
Face lift $11,813 $5,028
Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) $8,418 $3,764
Porcelain crown $998 $306
Full acrylic dentures $1,750 $562
Dental implants/Branemark $3,500 $1,794

Procedure

United States (USD)

Thailand (USD)

Coronary angioplasty $41,000 $4,000
Breast augmentation $10,000 $3,000
Hip replacement $24,000 $10,000
Spinal fusion $62,000 $7,000
Coronary bypass $100,000 $12,000
Dental implants $3,500 $2,400
Chief source: Compare the Cost of Elective Surgery Abroad, Treatment Abroad

Additional Information

Select Sources for Medical Travel Thailand

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