.  台灣觀光醫療發展協會 - FEATURE : High potential for medical tourism (Taipei Times)

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首頁 arrow 新聞 arrow FEATURE : High potential for medical tourism (Taipei Times)
FEATURE : High potential for medical tourism (Taipei Times) PDF 列印 E-mail
2009/08/04, 週二
FEATURE : High potential for medical tourism (Taipei Times)
BIG BUSINESS:Industry insiders are optimistic about the revenue the sector could bring by
                     tapping into demand for health services in China and elsewhere
By Joyce Huang
STAFF REPORTER
Monday, Aug 03, 2009, Page 12 
 
Although Taiwan ranked second in the world for medical services in a 2000 report
by the Economist Intelligent Unit, inbound medical tourism remains a fledgling
industry, lagging behind South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, which have promoted
the sector for more than a decade.
 

Given the efforts to target visitors from Japan and China — two of Taiwan’s
biggest sources of tourists — industry insiders say medical tourism could do
more than bring in revenue, strengthening Taiwan’s prominence in the field of
medicine as well. 

Taiwan Medical Tourism Development Association (TMTDA, 台灣觀光醫療發展協會)
head Allen Lee (李昆侖) said that if just 5 percent of an estimated 2.2 million
Japanese and Chinese tourists over a one-year period spent NT$10,000 (US$305) each
on having physicals in Taiwan, medical centers would earn NT$1.1 billion in income.
 

"Our share of the pie could be even bigger, given that the sector’s output is US$250
billion globally,” Lee said. 

The niche market has become increasingly lucrative, with experts estimating that
medical tourism could earn India as much as US$2.2 billion per year by 2012. 

Singapore has set a goal of attracting 1 million “medical tourists” per year by
2012 and generating US$3 billion in revenue, or 1.6 percent of GDP. Thailand,
meanwhile, has established itself as a regional center for spa treatments. 

Lee said Taiwan was particularly well-positioned to vie for medical tourists from
China, given the cultural proximity, common language and popularity of its tourist
attractions.
 
A 40-year-old Beijing visitor surnamed Hsu.
Hsu and 16 other members of a 32-person tour group from China’s capital received
positron emission tomography (PET) examinations at Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial
Hospital (新光醫院) last Monday at a cost of 6,000 yuan (US$878) each.
 
“The hospital’s services are very good and its equipment is pretty new,” he told
the Taipei Times after undergoing the high-end health check.
 
Hsu said he had heard good things about Taiwan’s medical services by word of mouth
after a group from Guangzhou, the first to visit Taiwan for medical tourism, were
very satisfied with their experience in June.
 

The same PET check costs between 10,000 yuan and 12,000 yuan in China, said Beijing
MJ Health Screening Co (美兆健檢中心), the organizer of the tour group.

The Beijing group, which wrapped up its six-day trip on Friday, was the second
Chinese tour group to visit Taiwan for a combination of health checks, spa
treatments and sightseeing since June.

Given Taiwan’s medical expertise and services, many middle and high-income Beijing
residents should be interested in visiting Taiwan, despite the fact that hospitals
and clinics in their home city offer an array of state-of-the-art medical equipment,
said Li Ping (李萍), the administrator of Beijing MJ Health Screening, which has
30,000 members in Beijing alone. 

“We look at Taiwan’s quality of medical services,” she said. “A price range of
between 6,000 yuan and 8,000 yuan will be very acceptable for Chinese who want to
get health checks.”

Li said Chinese are also impressed by the National Health Insurance, under which
citizens and residents are covered by the kind of social safety net that Chinese
authorities are considering implementing.

Eyeing the market’s potential, Shin Kong Hospital has signed an agreement with
Shin Kong and HNA Life Insurance Co (新光海航人壽) — a 50-50 joint venture between
China’s Hainan Airlines Co (海航集團) and Taiwan’s Shin Kong Life Insurance Co
(新光人壽) — and Beijing-based MJ Health Screening and SweetMe Hotspring Resort
(水美溫泉會館) to encourage policyholders and members of these companies to visit
for medical tourism.

The business is still in its trial period, Beijing MJ Health Screening president
Jack Tai (戴明哲) said, adding that three more medical tourist groups from Beijing
would travel to Taiwan in the next three months.

“In future, we hope there will be a group of more than 30 members visiting Taiwan
each month,” Tai said.

Leu Jyh-gang (呂至剛), chief of Shin Kong Hospital’s department of health management,
said he was confident that Taiwan could tap into increasing health demand in China.

He said Taiwan had 30 PET scanners nationwide, two of which are owned by Shin Kong
and cost around NT$60 million each. Beijing has four scanners out of a total of 40
in all of China.

Coming to Taiwan would mean easier access and less waiting time for potential patients,
while Taiwanese prices are lower, he said.

More importantly, Leu said, Taiwanese doctors have greater expertise in reading scan
results, which are pointless if misinterpreted.

Shin Kong Hospital’s scanners have helped detect cancer in more than 300 patients,
or 1.3 percent of its total 28,000 patients since 2001, “all of whom are still alive
as a result of early [detection and] treatment,” Leu said.

Moreover, the hospital reserves 20 scan slots per month for patients from abroad.

In addition to PET and other health checks, Taiwan’s medical services should be able
to outperform other regional rivals in attracting tourists seeking micro cosmetic
surgery, liver transplants, heart surgery and artificial joint replacements, said
Mark Lee (李孟鴻), director of Jen Chi Hospital’s (仁濟醫院) dialysis center, which
has been supporting tour trips by visiting dialysis patients.

In the case of Japanese tourists, dental implant surgery or Chinese medicine packaged
with hot-spring treatments for a reasonable price are very attractive, Allen Lee said.

But local hospitals are lagging behind in terms of international marketing and
resources to develop the industry, Mark Lee said. This, combined with tight regulations,
poses a hurdle to the medical tourism sector, he said.

As the medical services sector is considered non-profit, government regulations bar
hospitals from advertising their prices to attract foreign clients.

To appeal to potential medical tourists abroad, authorities need to loosen restrictions
 on advertising, Mark Lee said, adding that Taiwan must also simplify the visa
application process for medical tourists.

Chen Shee-han (陳興漢), director of the international health center at Taoyuan-based
Min-Sheng Healthcare Hospital (敏盛醫療), said hospitals were sending mixed signals
by promoting medical services abroad without making the competitiveness of their
prices known.

Min-Sheng is the first Joint Commission International accredited hospital in Taiwan,
specializing in knee replacements. The procedure costs approximately one-fifth of the
price in the US. 

 
 
 
 
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