China’s medical tourism boom gains global attention: experts

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TRAVEL GAZETTE – As Chinese citizens begin to seek medical services overseas, much as they do shopping and education, foreign institutions’ are beginning to pay attention.

“Chinese people are getting richer and their willingness to consume is getting stronger. A lack of high quality medical resources in China make it possible for foreign medical institutions to exploit the Chinese market,” said Cheng Feng, professor on public health with the Tsinghua University.

The number of Chinese seeking treatment overseas for serious disease has risen by around 40 percent annually in the past three years to the present 3,000, according to Cai Qiang, chairman of Saint Lucia Consulting, a medical tourism agency.

“China could become one of the biggest outbound markets for medical tourism, probably within the next couple of years,” said Jonathan Edelheit, founder of the U.S. Medical Tourism Association.

To coordinate with the number of Chinese patients, foreign hospitals are hiring Chinese speaking staff. Cancer specialist MD Anderson even has a Chinese advertisement.

Even developing countries like India and Bangladesh have a piece of the market. According to Wang Sun, deputy general manager of Beijing’s Global Health Care Consulting, some Chinese patients travel to India and Bangladesh for treatment of diseases like hepatitis C.

The Chinese market needs a long-term strategy. “We have no plans to set up branches in China. We prefer to work with reliable partners in China to offer the best medical treatment that we have in Britain,” said Julia Bileckyj, associate director of Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals from Britain.

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