MEDICAL TOURISM, the country’s youngest growth industry, has a long way to go—and a lot of employees to recruit—to attain its goal of earning some P135 billion by 2015.
Optimistic government projections say this massive amount of money will come from the one million medical tourists expected to arrive in the next five years. There were some 60,000 medical tourists in 2007 and 100,000 in 2008. Our medical tourism industry has earned about P16 billion since 2004 when the government took its first steps in making medical tourism an industry.
Much of that money went to doctors, nurses, physical therapists, spa personnel, reflexologists, masseuses and tourism personnel who populate the medical tourism industry, which also goes by the name health and wellness tourism industry and the medical travel industry.
Worldwide, medical tourism today is worth from P1.8 to P2.7 trillion and is growing annually at a rate of 20%, so it could be a P8.5 trillion global business by 2013.
Jobs in medical tourism
Medical tourism is widely defined as a health holiday that includes cost effective private medical care and tour packages (sightseeing, golf and shopping, for example). It also includes leisure and relaxation activities such as spa therapies to re-invigorate patients.
The government said employment in medical tourism rose 13% from 2003 to 2005 to around 239,000 employees (or about one percent of total employment in the
Clearly, medical tourism is the place to be for medical, tourism and hotel and
restaurant management students who could earn big without leaving the Philippines
to work abroad.
Medical tourism will also enhance complementary industries such as travel, airlines and hospitality. And, equally important, medical tourism could reduce and reverse the brain drain of Filipino medical professionals (especially doctors and nurses) who continue to go abroad to work.
And where are these medical tourism jobs located? They’re mostly in two places: Metro Manila for the medical aspect of medical tourism and
Cebu for both the medical and wellness side of the
Without doubt, Metro Manila is this country’s center for the medical arts and medical education. Two of the country’s three hospitals accredited as medical tourism hospitals are in Metro Manila: St. Luke’s
in Quezon City and Medical
City in .
The other accredited hospital is the Pasig City Chong
in . Private hospitals in Metro Manila
offer the best in medical facilities equal to western hospitals, with some
providing accommodations similar to that of five-star hotels. Cebu City
The opening of St. Luke’s
Center at the Global
in January 2010 was a landmark in the medical tourism industry. Taguig City St. Luke’s Taguig is the country’s first hospital
designed from the ground up for medical tourism.
|St. Luke's Medical Center, Global City|
St. Luke’s Taguig, sister hospital of St. Luke’s Quezon City, houses 374 doctors’ clinics, 18 operating rooms, 5 caesarian section and delivery rooms, imaging suites, critical care units, a cardiac catheriterization laboratory, ob-gynecology, a post-anesthetic care unit and 10 institutes (Heart, Cancer, Neurosciences, Digestive and Liver Diseases, Eye, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Pathology, Pulmonary Medicine, Radiology, and Pediatrics and Child Health).
St. Luke’s Taguig is regarded as the best hospital in the
today and one of the best in the world. It is better-equipped than 95% of
hospitals in the USA.
The hospital caters to two main markets— medical tourism and patients from the
Makati Central Business District. The government said the opening of St. Luke’s
Taguig should strengthen the Philippines’
medical tourism industry, and boost the Philippines as an excellent retirement
Accreditation enhances the quality of medical care by providing quality standards and measuring hospital performance against internationally accepted benchmarks. Having more accredited hospitals could help convince more medical tourists to choose the
instead of other countries. All three of our accredited hospitals were
accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), an international agency that
certifies hospitals and other healthcare facilities worldwide.
will only succeed if more medical institutions will get international
accreditation and improve medical services,” said Dr. Anthony Calibo, Program
Manager of the Philippine Medical Tourism Program under the Department of
The heart of the
tourism industry lies in the Visayas and the jewels of the region’s tourism
industry are Cebu and Boracay. The accreditation
of Chong Hua
as one of only three medical tourism accredited hospitals indicates the Visayas
realizes the potential of medical tourism and is doing something about it. Cebu City
The ongoing tourism boom is also expected to further benefit medical tourism in
Cebu. Cebu is visited every
year by a third of all tourists to the Philippines and is also the most
popular tourist destination among foreigners, followed by Boracay. Of the top
five tourist destinations in the Philippines, four are in the
Visayas. Some 8,000 more hotel and resort rooms are expected to open in the
next five years, mostly in Cebu and Metro
Manila, bringing a massive number of jobs.
|Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu City|
In 2009, those jobs were at Cebu’s P3.2 billion
Its combined medical and wellness aspects make medical tourism in
Cebu unique. A medical tourist can
have a medical, cosmetic or surgical procedure performed in Cebu City, relax
at a spa then tour any of the world class tourism sites in the province, in the
Visayas or in Mindanao.
“The Wellness Island of Cebu” is how the province promotes itself to medical tourists. Officials in charge of this effort say Cebu has many advantages as a medical tourist destination: low cost medical procedures (from 50% to 90% cheaper than those in the
USA); competent and experienced
doctors and medical personnel; the wide use of English and the natural tendency
of Cebuanos (and Filipinos, in general) towards compassionate caregiving. There
are also a large number of spas that help facilitate recovery.
Good years ahead
Good years lie ahead for medical tourism. This October will see the holding of the 2010 International Summit on Medical Travel, Wellness and Retirement (IMWELL) Summit where experts from the hospitality, healthcare, travel and wellness industries around the world will discuss how to make the Philippines the next preferred medical travel destination in Asia.
The ongoing crisis in
U.S. healthcare is also expected to
boost our medical tourism. The U.S.
accounts for P77 trillion of the P149 trillion spent annually for healthcare
worldwide. Although Americans spend more for healthcare than any country in the
world, the quality of the healthcare they receive is abysmal: the World Health
Organization ranks the U.S.
37th when it comes to quality of healthcare. The top healthcare
nations are in Europe.
Consequently, Americans are increasingly turning overseas to address their healthcare needs as their healthcare insurance costs skyrocket at a higher rate than overall inflation. The market for our medical tourism: uninsured Americans and a large number of underinsured since the procedures they mostly undergo (such as cosmetic surgery) are elective and not covered by health insurance. The
U.S. also faces a sharp cut in new
physicians entering its healthcare system.
Medical tourism today, however, isn’t common enough to play a role in
healthcare reform—not yet, at least. One estimate said medical travel spending
accounted for no more 1% (P10.8 billion) of the P108 trillion spent on healthcare
in the U.S.
Medical travel in the
U.S. is gaining ground, however.
The four largest commercial U.S.
health insurers have either launched pilot programs offering medical tourism or
are exploring it. The influential American Medical Association has released new
guidelines on medical tourism intended to inform and advise patients,
employers, insurers and those coordinating international healthcare about how
to ensure the quality and safety of patient care internationally.
(Published in Enrich magazine, 2010)