Message from the Chairman
Globalization has been a fact for healthcare long before it has been a mainstream paradigm for the business world. For decades, wealthy patients around the world have been traveling to various destinations around the world to find the best possible treatment. Yet the ever increasing cost of treatment in developed nations has spurred new demand: Quality treatment at a low cost with an added taste of tourism.
The high cost of healthcare in the developed world is accounted as a major problem for individuals, employers, employee funds, insurance systems and governments. This fact has shaped the medical tourism industry within the last decade. At the crossroads between East and West, Turkey is on its way to become the next “center of attraction” for the global medical tourism market.
Turkey has been going through a comprehensive healthcare restructuring. Scaling up its healthcare services and continuous quality improvements are important keys for the swift transition. As a result of state led health system reforms and an influx of private investments to Turkey's healthcare landscape, the country is now a strong alternative for international patients. With 46 Joint Commission International accredited hospitals, Turkey's private medical infrastructure is now a well-built option in the global medical tourism arena. Not to mention Turkey's geographical advantage as well as its unique cultural richness is an important factor in securing a solid place in this industry. The forerunners of Turkey's transformation have been local private healthcare investors. Turkish investors have shifted Turkey's health service standards and quality by employing state-of-the-art treatment centers and the latest in medical technology. With an increasing and prospering population of 75 million, the Turkish health industry offers significant opportunities for foreign investors as well. Today, Turkish entrepreneurs and doctors have not only created a unique opportunity for local patients but also for global healthcare seekers. With successful service outcomes, competitive price levels, and unique geographic location, Turkey is on its way to becoming a preferred health partner for insurance companies, assistance companies, self-run and government health funds.
In the 21st century an increasing number of patients from developed countries are traveling abroad. These patients are seeking high quality medical care at affordable prices along with the flavor of being a tourist in a unique country. Initially, the medical tourism industry catered to patients who were seeking lower cost alternatives to selective procedures, mostly cosmetic. However, there is an increasing trend of patients who are seeking treatment abroad for more complicated procedures. The Medical Tourism Industry grossed $100 billion worldwide in 2009 and estimates that the market will expand to $200 billion by 2012. The majority of these patients are from the US. Though there is limited research covering the trend it is estimated that 1.6 million Americans traveled abroad for treatment in 2009. The cost savings for patients and their insurance companies seeking medical care abroad are significant.
Some employers are also exploring medical tourism as a way to provide quality healthcare coverage to employees at a lower cost. In the EU and Middle East, medical tourism is often driven by the lack of timely access to quality care nearby. For example, the wait time for elective orthopedic procedures in the UK can be months. Therefore, some patients choose to travel in order to receive treatment in a matter of weeks. In other areas, quality healthcare does not exist so travel is the only option.
The types of interventions which are performed abroad continue to increase. Above mentioned initial focus on elective, cosmetic procedures has expanded to much more complex procedures including complex cardiovascular interventions, transplantation, neurosurgeries, oncological treatments, major orthopedic, urological and general surgery cases. With increasing number of alliance and affiliations between top US teaching institutions and foreign hospitals, the exponential increase in the number of quality procedures available abroad is a trend that will likely continue. Currently there are more than 333 hospitals in 47 countries which are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), an arm of the organization that accredits American hospitals participating in medicare. Another 20 are accredited through the International Standards Organization and some countries are adopting their own accrediting standards.