Filipinos overseas comprise huge market for medical tourism

Published by rudy Date posted on November 2, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos based abroad comprise a huge market for medical tourism, which is expected to become a $3-trillion global business by 2020.

In a press briefing, HealthCore Philippines executive director Joyce Socao-Alumno said that in the United States alone, there are some five million Filipinos holding American passports who could beef up medical tourism if they could be convinced to get their medical, surgical, aesthetic and wellness needs in the country.

“We have a big market from among the Filipinos based abroad. We have seen the global healthcare scenario. There is a big market out there because (people) are aging. There is a projection that in 2014 to 2020, half of the world will be 50 and above,” she noted.

Alumno added that it would be more beneficial for Filipinos abroad to get healthcare procedures in the Philippines because they have relatives here and they are familiar with the language.

On Nov. 11, HealthCore will spearhead the 1st Philippine Global Healthcare Forum at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City where local and international experts in the healthcare business and management will gather to assess and discuss the growing industry of medical tourism, now also known as “medical travel” and “global health care.”

According to Alumno, the Philippines “has all the resources and advantage to become a hub of global health care” but it has been left behind by neighboring countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and India.

In 2010, the country’s share of the 3.5 million medical travelers in Southeast Asia was a measly three percent.

“Last year, Malaysia had 393,000 foreign patients and they are aiming to have one million foreign patients by 2015 because they have very organized government support. Despite language barrier, South Korea has been getting foreign patients from all over the world. Last year they had 200,000. They were able to organize well. Each patient had an interpreter,” she said.

To effectively promote Philippine medical tourism, she said there are two primary issues that need to be addressed, including the image of the country regarding poor security, poverty and “lacking in quality facilities and/or physicians.”

Alumno also claimed the country needs to “benchmark” its standards for doctors and healthcare facilities with international level to effectively entice foreign travelers to come.

She gave assurance, however, that there are long-term economic and social benefits if the country could have a significant share in medical tourism, especially if foreigners will invest in healthcare facilities and services in the Philippines.

This will result in increased job opportunities for Filipinos and will also motivate local hospitals to “follow the best, world-class standards and medical practices” to be able to compete on a global level.

Foreign medical travelers also generate revenues since they tend to spend three times more than the tourists because they stay longer to recuperate from procedures.

Alumno added that medical tourism would also benefit “not only the healthcare sector but the travel sector as well, due to the income generated for travel industry stakeholders.” –Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star)

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