Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 02, 2008
A few days ago, columnist Tony Lopez wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Manila Times complaining about a new report on medical tourism from Deloitte. The report talks about Asian medical-tourism destinations like Singapore and Thailand and doesn’t even mention the Philippines. “This is disturbing because the Philippines has far better facilities and more qualified and experienced medical personnel than either or both Singapore and Thailand,” writes Lopez. Maybe, although I bet the folks at Singapore’s Parkway group of hospitals or Thailand’s Bumrungrad would argue that point.
With so many people in the health-care industry excited about the likelihood that American insurance companies will be sending U.S. patients overseas in growing numbers, the Philippines is just one of many countries trying to get into the medical-tourism game. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Lopez writes, boasted recently that the Philippines has an edge because it has some of the world’s best doctors, nurses and health-care providers. That, too, is subject to debate.
What the Philippines doesn’t have, though, is a good image, given the country’s history of coup attempts and political unrest. People traveling from the other side of the world for medical treatment have enough to worry about without having to fret about the stability of the country they’re visiting. That’s one reason Singapore does so well. And, with protesters again in the streets of Bangkok, it’s one reason Thailand’s medical-tourism plays are probably going to suffer in the months ahead. Investors seem to think so: Bumrungrad’s stock price is down sharply since the latest round of unrest in Bangkok started. If the Philippines loses the dubious honor of being the least stable country in Southeast Asia, then maybe it does stand a chance in medical tourism.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.