Americans largest group of medical tourists to Thailand

Despite the great distance and long travel times, United States citizens make up the largest group of people visiting Thailand for medical services, accounting for 20 percent of the Thai medical tourism market, in a surprise finding in a survey by a Singapore-based medical tourism research company last week.

“It’s no surprise that the Australians make up nearly a fifth of all arrivals, given its relative proximity to Thailand, but what is surprising is that Americans make up the largest group at 20 percent – the country with by far the biggest medical tourism market in the world!” MyMediTravel, the Singapore-based company wrote on its website.

The company’s conclusions, however, are not all-encompassing. It arrived at its figures based on a survey of 1,000 English-speaking medical tourists in Thailand, including those from countries where English is not the native language. The lack of non-English-speaking respondents may have skewed the results, but the high percentage of Americans in the findings was still unexpected. The prevalence of English as the dominant language of global communications makes it unlikely the survey was wildly off base.

Americans became much more aware of the high quality and huge cost savings of Thai medical care in private hospitals about five years ago when award-winning television news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment on medical tourism in Thailand and profiled Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok.

Thailand has scores of advanced, modern private hospitals across the Kingdom that have received international accreditation for the level of care and expertise they provide. About two-thirds of survey respondents said, however, that they chose treatment at hospitals in the capital city Bangkok.

Bumrungrad was the most popular hospital among respondents. However, Sikarin Hospital came in a close second, and the website said that “KTOP Clinic and Yanhee Hospital are fast gaining a reputation for being up with the best cosmetic surgery facilities in the region.”

Cosmetic procedures were among the most sought-after services, such as breast augmentation, coolsculpting, and hair transplants. Gender reassignment surgery also made the list.

Thailand’s government has been promoting medical tourism with the aim of making the Kingdom Asia’s leading healthcare hub. Medical services, advanced research, and the manufacture of medical devices are also among the S-Curve industries the government is supporting and promoting in its 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0.