Future Culture

Futurist Writer Lei Kalina writes her tongue-in-cheek musings and ramblings on the growing worldwide phenomenon of the growth of the Future Culture in the 21st Century

Future Culture In The 21st Century

Future Culture In the 21st Century

Futures Studies, Foresight, or Futurology , according to Wikipedia, is the science, art and practice of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. Futures studies (colloquially called "Futures" by many of the field's practitioners) seeks to understand what is likely to continue, what is likely to change, and what is novel. Part of the discipline thus seeks a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present, and to determine the likelihood of future events and trends. Futures is an interdisciplinary field, studying yesterday's and today's changes, and aggregating and analyzing both lay and professional strategies, and opinions with respect to tomorrow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Asian Medical Tourism: Big Bucks, Big Business


























ALMOST THREE MILLION TOURISTS visiting Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines last year, says statistical reports ( www.researchandmarkets.com ) : some two hundred thousand of them visiting the Philippines in 2006 --- as Manila struggles and keeps up behind said countries as 5th placing newcomer-player in the medical tourism ballgame.

But hope springs eternal.

This early , Gloria Arroyo’s Philippine government is strongly stressing the importance of developing this sector as it is perceived as a “strategic tourism niche” for the years to come , and the Tourism Department gears up , zeroing in on cosmetic surgery as the perfect pitch to surface in the global market , “now that it has jumped enthusiastically on board the medical tourism bandwagon.”

At our successful Manila Futurists Society-organized and sponsored event production at the Ateneo De Manila University’s Leong Hall Auditorium last July 25th, close to a hundred young Ateneans trooped to the venue, and checked out what MFS’ “medical tourism talk “ is all about.

Special guest speaker for the event is Dr. Rolando Cabatu, with sterling credentials: Diplomate from the Philippine Board of Surgery; Fellow, Philippine College of Surgeons ; Fellow, Philippine Society of General Surgeons ; Fellow, Philippine Society of Laparoscopic Surgeons; Ancillary Services Director from the University of Sto. Tomas, UST Hospital Medical Director from year 2004 to year 2007; and one of the more active proponents of Philippine medical tourism --- being the Vice-President of the Philippine Association of Health Organizations In Medical Tourism Inc.

Cabatu says: more than 200,000 tourists visiting the country in the past years have fueled the economy with an influx of dollars, considering 10 million OFWs also “acting as sales representative” in their respective work destinations to promote the country’s medical services --- which would translate to a minimum of 10 million “recruited-tourists” who can possibly visit Manila as patient availing of local medical services at a small fraction of the price as compared to prices in Western countries.

Medical tourism industry analysts’ observations: Malaysia and the Philippines, both relatively struggling newbies in the med tourism global market, will be strong contenders in the next five years .

And this early, the Philippines targets its future capture of a whopping US$2 billion revenue share in the Asian medical tourism market from the predicted scenario of the industry , expected to shoot up to being US$92-billion global market by 2012. “And countries such as Singapore will try to grab a US$6.8-billion share of this figure and already it is succeeding (www.travelweekly.web). “

And the figures speak for themselves.

Check out the numbers: according to TravelWeeklyWeb.com , Asia rides high with the most potential medical tourism market worldwide , generating 2007 revenues worth US$ 3.4 Billion, accounting for nearly 12.7% of the global market. And the global clientele is growing in numbers: “there will be more than 220 million aging baby boomers from the West, a large market with declining health ----who will be seeking inexpensive, high-quality medical care most likely in Asia. “

Price Waterhouse Coopers study says : seven percent of the world population in 2007, or 42 million people, were at least 65 years old and the figure was expected to double by 2015. That’s great clientele base for medical tourism.

Meantime, analysts reveal that Japan’s aging market --- with its population dominated by the elderly --- is touted as the largest client base for the global medical tourism market --- and the main focus that Asian destinations like the Philippines can get its hands on --- to make sure it meets its US$2 billion target share of the Asian industry’s revenues.

Recent studies by the Philippine Institute For Development studies show that as per

Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare estimates , the elderly needing nursing care will be over 2 million, set to increase to 4 million in year 2010 , and will increase more to as high as 5.2 million in year 2025.

More statistical figures and facts :

· As of Oct 2001, there are 10,137 Japanese officially residing in RP making it the 8th most popular destination in Asia next to China, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

· Japan, ranked as the second largest tourism market (next to US), has contributed roughly US$270 million in direct revenues to the Philippine tourism industry.

· But RP has so far captured only 1.8% of the 20 million Japanese travelers

in the Asia-Pacific region.

· Japan’s aging market will be the largest medical tourism market in Asia, reason why Asian countries are aggressively positioning themselves to become the travel destination of this market, and eventually become the retirement choice.

· An average Japanese retiree spends at least US$2,400 annually in medical care ,With 20 million aging retirees having their regular medical check-ups or treatment, that translates to at least US$48 Billion. And the amount is even expected to go up.

· Great numbers for the Philippine medical tourism industry --- but RP ranks only 8th as popular retirement destination for Jap tourists ( in October 2001 study).

· In 2003, 1.9 million foreigners visited the Philippines, a number that has remained relatively stable since 2000. During that period, biggest volume of visitors came from US, Japan, South Korea, HK, and Taiwan. But tourism failed to flourish as a result of political and economic instability, among other factors. (www.hawaii.edu)


When the Arroyo government apparently got giddy with the astounding figures and is all poised to pursue the public sector-cum-private sector initiative with the Health Department, Tourism Department and private medical hospitals , facilities and practitioners , not a few wanted to join the burgeoning bandwagon for big bucks. Arroyo’s statement: “Cost is competitive and quality is high. Filipino professionals can serve the world right here at home, as we provide more jobs downstream and cut down poverty”

As industry experts see a strong Asian medical tourism market down the line, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.6% between 2007 and 2012 (www.researchandmarkets.com), the Philippines can work on improving its facilities for bigger bucks in medical tourism where it is said to be “gaining a firm foothold”, as per Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

The reports contend: The Philippines is known for its quality nurses and other health workers who have dominated the medical profession in such developed countries as the United States and Great Britain, reason for foreign patients to get assurance of getting the best in health care. The medical sector is working hard to see medical tourism flourish because they believe that the sector has the potential to address not only economic problems, but also the woes besetting our biggest exports: our human resources.

“Philippine medical facilities may, at this stage, still be building a reputation for service excellence, but they’ve put into place several mechanisms to cater to visiting patients.

Asian Hospital, St Luke’s and Medical City to name a few have set up special departments to deal only with foreign cases. For visitors from the US, the biggest motivation is the cost savings, as patients can receive US-standard healthcare from Asian healthcare facilities and internationally known doctors at a fifth of the price back home.”

Researchandmarkets.com’s figures: “Philippine medical tourism only started three years ago, in October 2005, but has already met sizable success. The overall income related to medical tourism was topping the 200 million USD threshold for the first year of operation.”

“Realizing the revenue potential of medical tourism, the Philippines is now exploring ways to take advantage of the growing trend. According to a Price Waterhouse Coopers study, 24 countries spent a combined $2.7 trillion on health and wellness in 2002 and the figures should rise to $10 trillion by 2020 (Philippine Daily Inquirer report).”

So who’s sorry now? Do we hear sour-graping??

From NaturalNews.com, writer Mike Adams reveals that yes, this 21st century phenomenon called medical tourism --- also called medical travel or health tourism ( “a term coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of traveling to another country to obtain healthcare”) may be good news for Asia. But it’s bad news for the US healthcare industry.

Mike Adams: “ Asian medical tourism is bad news for the US healthcare industry.

People will go overseas to get better medical care or a better value on surgical procedures, and the popularity of medical tourism is proving that.

“If healthcare becomes so expensive in the Western World, and that it's by far cheaper to buy an international plane ticket and get some medical procedure done overseas, then more and more people are going to take that option and go overseas. And as medical tourism becomes more popular, I think we're going to see the American Medical Association, hospital associations and maybe even the FDA up in arms, complaining about the loss of revenues for U.S. companies.”

“So in addition to exporting so many jobs from the IT industry, we will actually be exporting healthcare revenues to countries around the world. And these are substantial revenues; we're talking about billions of dollars at stake. Medical tourism is good news for Asia, and bad news for US’ healthcare industry.”

Adams further writes: “And if you want to have a healthcare system that works , you need to make it efficient. You need to get rid of the paperwork, the fraud and the waste, and have a system that offers medical procedures at a fair, affordable price. Let's face it: big medicine is big business. And organized medicine absolutely hates competition.”


The cost savings are incredible: a knee replacement surgery in an Asian high-tech hospital may only cost you $6,000 while it could cost $50,000 in the USA.

Heart bypass surgery in Asia costs around $10,000, while costing

6-8 times more in the US. Gastric bypass surgery in the U.S. can cost $10,000 to $20,000, while costing only under $5,000 overseas (www.naturalnews.com) .

“Medical tourism hospitals in the Philippines and other countries actually have to meet higher standards. They have to give you such a high-quality experience with such outstanding results that you go back home to the US and tell people. Because when you do that, they know it’s going to be great word-of- mouth marketing for that hospital.”

One downside of medical tourism: the World Health Organization (WHO) recently ranked the Philippines as one of the top five countries in the world for human organ trafficking, along with China, Pakistan, Egypt and Colombia.

Asia Times Online reports that the website www.liver4you.org advertises liver transplants for $130,000, but a foreign patient can expect to spend between $70,000 to $115,000 for a kidney transplant in one of 20 government-accredit ed medical facilities in the Philippines.

And as RP medical tourism booms , so does the influx of deep-pocketed foreigners who seek organ transplants, most commonly kidneys --- about 200,000 health tourists visited the Philippines in 2006,

according to official statistics.

Based on the Philippine Renal Disease Registry , kidney transplants in the Philippines has recently risen dramatically, climbing from 306 transplants in 2002 to 1,046 in 2007. Over half of the kidney recipients last year were foreigners, mostly from the Middle East.

Meantime, Dr. Cabatu says Thailand is top Asian country in the Asian medical tourism phenomenon, and not Singapore – as contrary to reports.

Wikipedia’s statistical data:

Thailand as a destination for medical treatment has rocketed in recent years and they have the statistics to prove it. Take just one country like the United Arab Emirates for example – over 60,000 of their citizens a year come to Thailand to enjoy treatment. Two of the Thailand’s top hospitals Bumrungrad and Samitivej treat patients of whom 40% are foreign – this kind of high percentage is quite phenomenal. “

“According to the Kasikorn Research Centre, 2005 alone attracted an unprecedented 1.28 million foreign medical travelers which generated revenue of 33 billion Baht. That means therefore, that on average each patient spent 25,800 Baht for their treatments. It was revealed in an article in Newsweek in 2006 that 400,000 foreign patients were treated at just Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok. This prestigious world-class hospital has an outpatient capacity of 6,000 patients per day.”

Thailand presently has a free universal health program for its citizens with more than 600 hospitals and 400 medical facilities. Today, Thailand has proudly become a medical hub for patients from the United States, Europe, the surrounding countries, and the Middle East.”

Still, Singapore is touted as ranked close second to Thailand as “more than half a million international visitors visited the city-state in 2006 , boosting its medical tourism industry. Asia is becoming the medical travel hub of the world.”

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