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Thailand Medical Tourism: Present and future

If you’ve been paying attention to the trends among healthcare systems and hospitals in Thailand over the past few years, you will no doubt have heard all about the impact that Thailand medical tourism has been having. Each year there are more and more people from outside of Thailand coming here to take advantage of the great value that Thai hospitals provide; allowing people access to high quality care at top notch facilities for a fraction of the cost they would find in their home countries.

With that said, it’s a new year, and hospitals in Thailand are going to be looking at new ways to gain a greater share of the global medical tourism market. Here, Pacific Prime Thailand examines the current state of Thailand medical tourism, the most popular treatments and procedures, and new trends we will be seeing in the coming year.

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Thailand medical tourism

There are a number of medical reasons that people travel to Thailand for medical treatment. Of course, the bottom line is often priority #1 in some people’s minds, and people can certainly save a bundle by turning to Thai hospitals for treatment. This is especially true if private healthcare in their home country is especially expensive. However, there are other reasons why people choose to travel abroad for treatment, too.

For example, some countries have public healthcare that will take care of a patient’s medical problem for next to no cost, or even free. However, public healthcares systems also commonly develop long waiting lists for some procedures; especially if a patient’s condition is not particularly life-threatening. In these instances, a person may wish to not wait for their treatment, and, thus, must turn to another county’s medical system for quick treatment. Also, people may not have faith in their local hospitals or doctors to satisfactorily treat them.

This is where Thailand truly starts to shine, as the doctors in the country are very well trained in the latest treatments and procedures, and hospitals are outfitted with the most cutting edge medical technology. Additionally, doctors and other staff in the hospitals that medical tourists gravitate towards in Thailand have excellent language skills, so patients have little to no communication issues.

Beyond just the medical side of things, people who travel to Thailand for care are often amazed at the excellent amenities offered by Thai hospitals. The customer service can resemble that of world class hotels, and, indeed, hospitals themselves can do the same!

Most common medical tourism treatments and procedures

To clarify for those unfamiliar with medical tourism, nobody is going to  be a medical tourist in order to save money when they are having a heart attack. Medical tourism is not appropriate for emergency medical care, and any critical conditions should be treated as soon as is possible in the best possible facility in your immediate area. However, there are some conditions that can occur for which treatment can be put off for some time. For these, Thailand medical tourism can be a solid, money-saving solution.

Let’s have a look at some of the most common reasons people travel abroad as medical tourists:

    • Scans of various kinds – The average cost of an MRI scan in the United States is USD 2,611. It is no wonder, then, that some people would be willing to pop for airfare to head to Thailand, where the same scan can cost about USD $190. Savings can be had on other medical scans like CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays.


    • Lasik surgery – The average cost of Lasik vision surgery in the United States is about USD 2,250, while the same procedure can cost nearly half that in Thailand.


    • Cosmetic procedures, including dental work – Whether it’s a face lift, tummy tuck, breast augmentation, anti-aging treatment, veneers or any other number of cosmetic surgeries – elective or otherwise – that a patient needs done, significant savings can be achieved with a trip to Thailand.


    • Physical examinations – Combine your regularly scheduled physical examination with a tropical holiday, and substitute your stuffy, drab hospital environment with a medical facility that could pass for a 5-star resort, and it’s easy to see why people are opting to have their check-ups done in Thailand. The cost savings is just icing on the cake.


    • Heart surgery – For more serious procedures like a heart-valve replacement including bypass surgery, the biggest savings can be realized. While this type of procedure might cost USD 75,000 in the United States, it is likely to cost only a third of that price in Thailand.


  • Joint replacements – Hip replacement in the United States can cost over USD 33,000. In Thailand the same procedure may cost only USD 13,000. Knee replacement surgery in the US can cost USD 30,000, but only USD 11,500 in Thailand. The reason to travel for treatment is easy to see.

Wellness: The future of medical tourism

One area of Thailand medical tourism that is certainly smaller than traditional medicine, yet is still growing rapidly, is wellness tourism. From 2013-2015, the rate of annual growth in this market averaged 7%, and the trend is set to continue. These types of services now account for over 320 billion baht in annual revenue for Thai providers.

So what is wellness tourism? It can be many things, but is generally regarded to be health-related services that are not medical treatments, and can often be provided by people who are not doctors or nurses per se. Wellness tourism sees health-conscious people traveling to Thailand in order to better themselves physically, mentally, nutritionally, emotionally, and even spiritually. There are many types of activities that can fall under the banner of wellness tourism, including:


    • Nutrition


    • Herbology


    • Fitness and mind-body


    • Personalized preventive care


    • Thai traditional medicine


    • Spas


    • Meditation


    • Yoga


    • Beauty and anti-aging treatment


    • Alternative medicine


  • And more…

It is generally thought that the rise of wellness tourism has much to do with the rising affluence and education of people around the world. We are now in an age where many people realize that longevity will be linked to developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the stresses of the modern world are sometimes unavoidable, so people are looking for getaways that will help them alleviate stress. For this reason, an increasing number of medical tourists are spending less time in hospitals and clinics, and more time in spas and hotels.

Covering costs

So if you are someone who is going to head to Thailand (or anywhere else, for that matter) as a medical tourist, how will you cover the costs? If you are independently wealthy, that’s great, but even if you are traveling to save money on medical costs, they can still add up to a very significant amount (especially if complications occur). This becomes problematic for those with health insurance in their home countries, as more often than not, an existing plan will not provide benefits for Thailand medical tourism.

Most individual, or even employer-provided, health insurance plans are strictly local in nature – only covering you at home. This means that once you are out your country of residence, you no longer have health insurance coverage. Furthermore, travel insurance only provides coverage for emergency medical care. This means that you will not be covered for any type of out-patient or elective procedures, or any type of medical care that you schedule ahead of time.

Also, it should be noted the much of the wellness tourism activities mentioned above are unlikely to be covered by a health insurance plan, although some plans can include wellness benefits of some kind.

There is a solution, however! International private medical insurance plans allow you to receive medical care of all kinds virtually anywhere in the world, including Thailand or other medical tourism destinations. If you are a person who may avail themselves of Thailand medical tourism even somewhat regularly, purchasing international health insurance plan can provide real peace of mind. In order to source the perfect international medical insurance plan for your specific needs, contact the experts at Pacific Prime Thailand today! Our agents can answer any international insurance or Thailand medical tourism coverage questions you have.

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