Bangkok‘s Bumrungrad International (www. bumrungrad. com) hospital has won international acclaim and is Thailand‘s best-known facility for health tourism. It was the first hospital in Asia, and the only one in Thailand, to be accredited by the US-based Joint Commission International (JCI, an organisation aiming to elevate healthcare delivery standards through evaluation and accreditation of healthcare organisations).
In 2006, 435,000 international patients from over 150 countries were treated at Bumrungrad, with surgeries including everything from comprehensive checkups and cardiac surgery to cancer treatment and plastic surgery. Patients hail from all over – from the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam to Australia and the United States. According to Dr Milstein‘s report, an elective coronary artery bypass operation that would typically cost US$60,000 in the USA, was priced around US$15,000 at Bumrungrad.
The hospital‘s group marketing director, Ruben Toral, says, “We deliver a Mercedes product at a Toyota price”, referring to the three things Bumrungrad prides itself in: “high quality, international-standard medical services, immediate access to those services and specialists, and affordable prices” (bladder surgery that would cost US$25,000 in the USA, costs only around US$3,000 at Bumrungrad, for example).
Toral says the hospital is a one-stop medical centre where patients have access to over 900 internationally trained medical specialists under one roof. Patients arriving for treatment might well be guests checking in at a five-star hotel: there are concierge-style services on tap and an electronic medical-records system that eliminates paper and waiting. This “total experience” is what attracts clients. “Medicine is a word-of-mouth business and we focus our marketing efforts on our patients because that creates a virtuous cycle of referrals.”
Like other top Asian hospitals, Bumrungrad works with the travel and tourism industry to promote medical tourism, and the hospital has a partnership with Diethelm Travel, Thailand‘s largest inbound tour operator, which has a travel assistance office in the hospital. New “medical tourism packages” are being developed and sold by travel agents, and the hospital also has a new kiosk inside Bangkok‘s international airport.
All Bumrungrad‘s doctors are Thai, but more than half have international training or overseas board certification (including 200 with US Board certification). Another Bangkok institution providing international services and help to streamline the arrival and accommodation of overseas patients and their families is the Bangkok International Hospital (www. bangkokhospital. com), which says a “considerable portion” of its patients are foreigners. The hospital has an International Medical Center (IMC) catering specially for overseas patients (it has treated patients from more than 100 nationalities) and includes a team of multi-lingual interpreters to help overseas visitors. There‘s also a special Japanese Medical Centre with Japanese-speaking doctors and nurses.
Also in Bangkok, the BNH Hospital (www. BNHhospital. com) offers a range of medical services, from orthopaedic surgery and ophthalmology to paediatrics. Various check-up programmes are on offer for set package prices. The hospital‘s International Travel Medicine Clinic provides full medical travel services and immunisations and what the hospital says is the “first comprehensive spine centre in Thailand”.
Further afield, Phuket might be famous for its beaches and warm seas, but to some tourists it has another attraction: sex-change surgery. In fact, this is one of the top 10 procedures that patients visit Thailand for. The Bangkok Phuket Hospital (www. phukethospital. com) is part of the Bangkok Hospital Group, a network of 15 private hospitals. The hospital offers “sexual reassignment surgery”, as well as extensive health-check facilities (it has the equipment to perform full-body CT scans and 4D ultrasounds). Some years ago, the hospital set up a subsidiary travel agency, Phuket Health & Travel, offering packages for plastic surgery procedures, dialysis treatment, hip or knee replacements, annual checkups and other procedures.