Small countries including India and Malaysia have seen a spike in the medical tourism market owing to the low-cost of treatments compared to the U.S. and the intensive care facilities offered by the hospitals.
The medical tourism market has grown exponentially in recent years due to affordability and accessibility of healthcare services along with the support from tourist department and government. In addition, the countries such as India, Brazil, Malaysia, and Thailand provide the latest medical technologies to the patients, which boosted the medical tourism market. In its recent report on Global Medical Tourism Market, Allied Market Research has estimated that the market was valued at $61,172 million in 2016, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15.0% from 2017 to 2023. Moreover, India has become the key market player in the medical tourism market.
India As a Medical Tourist Hub
India has become a favored “medical tourist destination” due to the recent technological advancements in healthcare sector and intensive care facilities offered by the hospitals. The residents from the U.S. are now ready to cross boarders for various treatments including heart bypass, hip or/and knee replacement, and the cosmetic surgeries. Moreover, the cost per treatment is considerably low in India than many other countries. A city in India Chennai is emerged as a cheap medical tourist hub. With more than 10 government and 70 private hospitals, Chennai provides a strong medical infrastructure, which includes quality intensive care units, rare surgeries, and pre- and post-operational care facilities at an affordable price. Moreover, government promoted policies to support the private sector to generate more revenue from medical tourism. Along with India, Malaysia has aimed for becoming a medical tourist hub by engaging the clients from China.
Malaysia: Fertility Hub for Chinese Parents
Malaysia has become more ambitious to grow as a medical tourist hub. Recently, China scrapped one-child policy. According to Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), there are around 90 million couples in China that wish to have a second child, out of which nearly 40 million couples are over the age of 40. Therefore, Malaysia desires to take this opportunity to grow its medical tourism market. By attracting even 1 percent of such Chinese population, Malaysia can boost the market exponentially. “The success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment is highest in the world, which in turn helps Malaysia to become a fertility hub for Chinese parents,” said Sherene Azli, the chief executive officer of MHTC.
According to MHTC, fertility, orthopedics, oncology, aesthetics, and cardiology are the top five sought after treatments by medical travelers. Furthermore, the government of Malaysia has declared the e-visa application system to ease medical tourists from 10 countries including China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. The e-visa will be valid for three months as announced by the Immigration Department of Malaysia.
Malaysia faces another hurdle of the cost of treatment. The Malaysian cost of treatment is cheaper for foreigners compared to the locals. However, in South Korea, foreigners pay thrice as much as locals for a same treatment, however, in Malaysia there is no such pay difference. After accepting policies like South Korea, Malaysia can lead the market of medical tourism.
Bitcoins and Medical Tourism
The use of cryptocurrency is no longer just for the investments purposes; it is now used to book flights, restaurants, and even as a payment for international medical bills. Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, is now widely accepted as a payment method by many hospitals and medical practitioners. The barrier of regional currency can be easily overcome by using cryptocurrency. The international medical expenses can be securely handled by bitcoins due to the protective nature of blockchains. Several hospitals have changed their payment methods to virtual currencies in the regions of the U.S., Canada, and some parts of Europe.
In some extreme cases, the delay in the transfer of funds, required for the operations, led to the cancellation of the surgeries. However, the use of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies has simplified the overseas transactions. Furthermore, use of cryptocurrency lowers the cost of quality healthcare across the globe as it eliminates the currency transaction rate in medical expenses. Hence, such technological advances, low medical expenses in small countries, and variations in laws have helped boost medical tourism in recent years.