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US crisis a boon to RP medical tourism

By capitalizing on the Philippines’ pool of talented and competent medical and health care professionals; the country’s world-class hospitals and spas; and the Philippines’ potential as an ideal retirement destination — the Philippine economy stands to benefit tremendously from the revenues generated by medical tourism which is estimated at a total of $40 billion worldwide.

This was the consensus among experts who attended by recent “Health and Wellness in the Heart of Asia” summmit held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

One of the speakers at the summit, Scott A. Edelstein of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, a healthcare law expert with international consultancy practice, said the US economic crisis may actually spell huge gains for the Philippine economy through medical tourism.

In his presentation, Edelstein noted that healthcare costs in the United States have become unaffordable for most US employers and workers. “Today, 50 million Americans are uninsured, 30 million more are underinsured — that is, they have insurance but it is not adequate for their needs,” said Edelstein.

Without insurance, millions of Americans simply can no longer afford to get the treatment they need in the United States. This is why these millions of US citizens will be looking at getting their medical treatments abroad; going overseas and spending dollars in the process in countries that are able to provide quality, safe and affordable health care.

Such a trend is happening today. According to statistics gathered from AP/Post Intelligencer and Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, around 1,000 US citizens traveled abroad to get healthcare in 2007. It is projected that by year 2010, as many as 6,000 US citizens would be traveling abroad each year to get medical care.

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The price difference between medical procedures done in the US and overseas already is a good indication of why getting medical treatment abroad is an attractive option.

According to Edelstein, patients and consumers seeking health care and wellness services overseas are looking for the following when choosing a country destination for medical travel:

• State-of-the-art technology, including imaging and surgical equipment and electronic medical records

• Fast access to care; same day or next day surgeries

• Waiver of deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance

• JCI (Joint Commission International)-accredited and/or ISO-certified facilities

•US-trained and Board-certified physicians who are fluent in English

• Transportation and accommodations

• Private rooms

• A high nurse-to-patient ratio (e.g. 1:1)

Thus, any healthcare or wellness provider in the Philippines that can match this list will be more attractive to medical tourists.

According to Edelstein, the Philippines has the potential to be a major player in the $40-billion medical tourism industry. He cited three areas where the Philippines has a competitive edge: a) US-trained doctors and world-class hospitals; b) a culture of caring and compassion; and c) beautiful locations that are ideal for tourism and/or retirement.

During the DOT-hosted summit, Edelstein was able to visit four top hospitals in the Philippines: The Medical City; The Makati Medical Center; St. Luke’s Medical Center; and The Asian Hospital.

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