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An Overview of Thailand’s Medical Tourism Industry

If you’ve been paying attention to the trends among healthcare systems, you may be familiar with the impact of Thailand’s medical tourism. But what exactly is medical tourism? The short answer is that it’s a cost-effective way of seeking quality medical care and treatments in a foreign country.

Since COVID-19, people from outside of Thailand have been traveling here for high-quality hospitals. Foreigners can access high-quality care at top-notch facilities for a fraction of the cost they would find in their home countries.

Medical equipment and medicine on a white desk

In addition, with vaccination programs successfully implemented across the globe, Thailand is now welcoming foreign medical tourists looking to invest in their health and improve their wellbeing with open arms. For patients who need long-term treatments, there is now even a one-year medical visa.

In this article, Pacific Prime Thailand examines the current state of Thailand’s medical tourism industry, the most popular treatments and procedures, and the ongoing wellness trends.

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Thailand Medical Tourism

There are several reasons that make Thailand the best destination for medical tourism with the main one being Thailand performed outstandingly well during the pandemic. From policymakers to researchers and doctors, every party in the healthcare industry displayed Thailand’s resilience to the world.

Experts have estimated that in 2023, the size of the Thai medical tourism industry will exceed what it was in 2019 and will be valued at THB ฿2 billion (USD $56.4 million). They are optimistic about future growth prospects, in part due to the recent onset of the silver economy.

Some countries, like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), have public healthcare systems that provide free medical treatment. However, these public healthcare systems often have long waiting lists for non-life-threatening conditions, leading patients to seek private healthcare for quicker treatment instead.

A modern hospital room

Thailand’s Private Hospitals

When it comes to medical tourism, private hospitals in Thailand truly shine. Thai doctors are well-trained in the latest treatments, and hospitals are outfitted with cutting-edge technology. Doctors and medical staff who attract tourists in Thailand also have excellent language skills.

Beyond the medical side, people who travel to Thailand for healthcare are often amazed at the excellent amenities Thai hospitals offer. In addition, their customer service can compete with that of world-class hotels!

Most Common Medical Tourism Treatments and Procedures

Nobody becomes a medical tourist to save money after a heart attack. Medical tourism isn’t for emergency medical care; any critical conditions should be treated immediately at the best possible facility in the area, hence the most common reasons for medical tourism are:

A patient undergoing a scan

1. Scans of Various Kinds

The average cost of an MRI scan in the United States (U.S.) is USD $1,325. Therefore, some people are willing to pay for a flight to Thailand where the highest cost of the same scan is only USD $1,100. Other medical scans like PET scans, CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays are also less expensive too.

Getting ready for cosmetic surgery

2. Cosmetic Procedures and Dental Work

Whether it’s a facelift, tummy tuck, breast augmentation, anti-aging treatment, veneers, or any other elective or non-elective cosmetic surgery, significant savings can be realized by choosing Thailand for the procedure.

Dental treatment is also a good reason to visit Thailand. Dental clinics with full accreditation are comparable to those in the U.S., while the costs are significantly cheaper. Of course, this depends on what you want. A simple consultation followed by a thorough scaling costs no more than USD $60.

Data reporting dashboard on a laptop screen

3. Physical Examination

Why not combine your regular physical examination with a tropical holiday and substitute a stuffy hospital environment with a medical facility that could pass for a 5-star resort at an affordable price? It’s easy to see why people opt for check-ups in Thailand.

Additionally, private hospitals offer several annual promotions to attract medical tourists for full health check-ups that can be considerably cheaper than back home.

A model of the human heart

4. Heart Surgery

The biggest savings can be made on more complicated procedures. For example, a heart-valve replacement, which typically costs an average of USD $170,000 in the U.S., is priced at only USD $26,400 in Thailand, even at one of the country’s most expensive hospitals. Still, prices may vary among individuals.

Man feeling pain in knee

5. Joint Replacement

In the U.S., the average cost of hip replacement starts from USD $45,000. In Thailand, however, the same procedure may cost only USD $7,000 on average. Likewise, knee replacement surgery can cost USD $50,000 on average in the U.S. but only USD $7,000 in Thailand.

Eyes are the windows to the soul

6. Eye Surgery

While LASIK for both eyes will set you back roughly USD $4,400 in the U.S., in Thailand, patients typically only need to pay around USD $1,650 for the same procedure. It should come as no surprise that eye surgeries are another big category for medical tourism in Thailand.

Cannabis has medical applications

7. Cannabis-based Medical Treatments

Marijuana has multiple medical applications. Medical marijuana can be used to manage chronic pain, especially for multiple sclerosis and nerve pain. Marijuana is also an effective muscle relaxant, reducing tremors in Parkinson’s disease. It helps in managing nausea, weight loss, glaucoma, and shows promise in treating PTSD, HIV-related pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease, among other uses.

five woman doing yoga on a seashore

Wellness: The Future of Medical Tourism

Another area of Thailand’s medical tourism industry that’s growing rapidly is wellness tourism. At present, Thailand’s global wellness tourism industry is estimated to be worth US $4.4 trillion each year, with predictions that it will rise to as high as USD $7 trillion by 2025.

Wellness Tourism

So, what is wellness tourism? While it can be many things, wellness tourism is generally regarded to be health-related services that aren’t medical treatments provided by people who aren’t doctors or nurses. Health-conscious people often travel to Thailand for better physical and mental wellbeing.

There are many types of activities that can be categorized as wellness tourism, including:

  • Nutrition education
  • Herbology
  • Fitness and mind-body
  • Personalized preventive care
  • Traditional medicine
  • Spa
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Beauty and anti-aging treatment
  • Alternative medicine

woman sitting on bench and viewing a mountain in the distant

It’s generally believed that the rise of wellness tourism has much to do with the rising affluence and education worldwide. We’re now in an age where many realize that longevity is linked to developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Additionally, stressful events in modern days are unavoidable. As more people look for getaways to help them alleviate stress, more medical tourists spend less time in hospitals and clinics and more time in spas and hotels.

Covering Costs

If you’re going to Thailand as a medical tourist, how will you cover the costs? While the cost of healthcare in Thailand is affordable, expenses can still add up to a very significant amount, especially if complications occur, and some health insurance won’t provide coverage for medical tourism.

Thai boat on an emerald sea

Secure the Right Health Insurance Plan for Thailand

Individual health insurance plans are mostly local. Once the insured is out of their country of residence, they’re not protected by their insurance anymore. Travel insurance also provides only coverage for medical emergencies, so you won’t be covered for any procedures scheduled ahead of time.

Although some health insurance plans can cover the cost of wellness tourism activities, the majority of them don’t. However, there is a solution! International health insurance plans grant you access to virtual medical care anywhere in the world, including Thailand and other destinations.

Purchasing international insurance can provide peace of mind, especially if you reach out to a health insurance broker like Pacific Prime. Contact our team of experts at Pacific Prime Thailand for the most suitable international health insurance plan and a free quote comparison service today!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Thailand
Suphanida is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, an award-winning global health insurance and employee benefits specialist.

With over 5 years of experience in the field, Suphanida spends the majority of her day synthesizing complex pieces of insurance-related information and translating this into easy-to-understand, engaging, and effective content across a variety of media such as articles, infographics, whitepapers, videos, and more.

Suphanida is also responsible for planning and publishing three whitepapers released annually by Pacific Prime: The State of Health Insurance Report, The Cost of Health Insurance Report, and The Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. Additionally, she handles the LinkedIn profiles of Pacific Prime’s Founder and CEO, as well as Global HR Lead.

Suphanida’s strengths lie in her strong research and analytical skills, which she has gained from her BA in Politics from the University of Warwick and Erasmus Mundus Joint MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City, University of London.

Being of Thai-Indian origin and having lived, studied, and worked in Thailand, the UK, and Denmark, Suphanida also has a unique, multicultural perspective that helps her understand the struggles of expats and globetrotters.

Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida Thakral
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