Over the last decade, places like South Korea, India, Thailand and Malaysia have been the go-to places for Australians seeking cheap, quality health care.
About 15, 000 Australians travel each year to undergo medical procedures outside their home country. But as Australians fly out, a growing number of medical tourists from New Zealand, United States and even Asia are flying in to avail of the country’s quality health care.
According to Lynne Pezzulo, a director and lead partner of health economics and social policy at Deloitte Access Economics, about 5.5 million medical tourists visit Australia every year. Data from Tourism Research Australia, the federal government’s agency in charge of tracking trends, revealed that more than 10, 000 medical tourists are coming to Australia for medical treatment every year.
While the figures only represent about 0.23% of Australia’s total tourist base, the numbers should not to be ignored. Around 600 international patients from over 30 different countries including the Pacific Rim, United States, New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia pay hundred of dollars for premium medical treatments in Australia.
These inbound medical tourists spend about $26 million in 2013, up from $12.7 million in 2006. These figures do not yet include the amount spent by medical tourists on airfares and medical packages they had already purchased before travelling offshore. Professor John Catford, medical director at Epworth, the largest private hospital group in the southern state of Victoria, believes the numbers are increasing, and the economic potential could be huge.
Most of Australia’s medical tourists are from the burgeoning middle class in Southeast Asia and therefore, has the financial resources to avail of the latest treatments. Victorian Health Minister David Davis says the Victorian State Government is keen to market Melbourne as a healthcare destination. However, Steve Hambleton, the President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) thinks that it would be a mistake to grow Australia’s medical tourism industry too soon.
While it’s obvious that Australia’s growing medical tourism market is to yield good financial benefits into the country’s healthcare system. Hambleton worries that Australia might encounter problems training the next generation of doctors for their own domestic needs. Nonetheless, despite Hambleton’s uncertainties, the future of medical tourism is likely to get better in Australia.
Australian health insurer, NIB wants to sell offshore surgical packages to Australians who want cheaper packages offered by medical systems in Asia. On the contrary, wealthy medical tourists from the Asia-Pacific region who wish to come to Australia for treatments can take advantage of specialist care and top-notch medical services.
According to Julia Medew, The Sydney Morning Herald reporter, a 2010 Victorian government report on export opportunities suggested Victorian hospitals set up “assistance centers” in Indonesian cities to guide people wanting to travel to Australia for medical treatment.