A healthcare guru at one of Bangkok's leading private hospitals, Bangkok Nursing Home (BNH) provided some insightful answers to frequently asked questions about the industry in Thailand...
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Why is Thailand so popular as a destination for medical treatments?
Quality, service and price would be the main factors. In Thailand you are able to receive top quality treatment with world-class services at affordable prices.
Are treatments in Thailand really cheaper than in other countries?
It depends on which country you are talking about. For people living in Europe or America, for example, treatments in Thailand are less expensive.
Are the doctors here well-trained?
In most international hospitals, many doctors have been trained in Europe or America and some of them also do a fellowship abroad.
Do hospitals here use the most advanced medical equipment and procedures?
Many hospitals offer state-of-the-art technology. For example, our Spine Centre offers the TARD (Total Artificial Disc Replacement), and some doctors in the UK and Germany refer patients to have the procedure done here.
Will it be possible to combine treatment with, say, a holiday afterwards?
It would be a good idea to combine treatment with a holiday. Looking at the cost alone, for some operations or procedures done here it is cheaper even after you have included your holiday package.
How can I be certain that having medical treatment or healthcare in Thailand is safe?
It would be helpful to look at the qualifications of the doctor and get recommendations from your friends or other trusted sources that have experienced the specific treatment or procedure, before proceeding.
Is the standard of healthcare as good as that found in the West?
Yes, particularly at international hospitals.
What medical treatments and areas of specialty do Thai hospitals excel at?
Orthopedic, Spine, Cardiology and Oncology. Many hospitals also focus on cosmetic procedures
What does Thailand offer over and above other countries popular for medical tourism, like Singapore, Eastern Europe or India?
Excellent service, competitive prices and high quality.
What are the most popular treatments?
Orthopaedic, Rather than essential medical care, is Thailand also a good place to come for preventative healthcare? Can I get a check-up during my visit?
To specifically come for a health check-up may not be waranted, but if you are here for a holiday and would like to have a check up, or want a check-up in addition to other planned procedures, it can be easily accommodated and cost-effective compared to having the same check-up procedures done in Western hospitals.
What place does Thailand's tradition for alternative medicine play in its role as a medical tourism hub?
The alternative and the traditional medicine does not appeal to everyone so it is diffcult to say, but of course, alternative medicine is increasing in popularlity.
What basic preparations should anyone coming to Thailand make before coming here, like vaccinations?
It depends on the length of stay and location. If you plan to stay less than three months, Influenza, Hepatitis A and Typhoid immunizations are recommended. For any period longer than three months, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Tetanus should be given as well.
Which areas in Thailand are malaria zones, and how can someone traveling to those areas prepare himself?
Malaria risk areas are around the border, forest areas and Koh Chang. If you are not staying in the forest or risk area for a long period of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers around dusk, using mosquito repellents and sleeping in an air-conditioned room or a room fitted with mosquito nets on the door and windows. If you are planning to go into risk areas, in addition to the protection stated above, 'Malarone' is best but not available here in Thailand and Southeast Asia. 'Doxycycline' is recommended too when you enter risk areas. The course of tablets should be started one day before you go to the risk area, everyday while you are there, and then for a further month after you have left. 'Doxycycline' may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis (a vaginal yeast infection), nausia and vomitting.
Is bird flu still an issue?
There were two to three cases reported in Thailand between January and November 2006, but none within the last three months. All cases occurred among local Thai people living and working closely with poultry in rural areas
Is the communication barrier a problem between patients and medical staff?
Not at all. At International hospitals, most staff are able to speak fair English. Apart from that they also have translators to assist the patients. BNH hospital can provide translations in ten languages, including English, Japanese, French, German, Italian, several Scandinavian languages, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
What does BNH do to ensure the experience for foreign patients goes smoothly?
We control the process, so as not to be overcrowded and to be able to provide a personalised service.
What areas of healthcare is BNH Hospital well-known for?
Orthopaedic and women's health.
Are there any healthcare packages I can take advantage of at BNH?
From November 25 to December 25, there will be a promotion at the hospital lobby. There will be many free health screening activities and special-priced healthcare packages. In addition, the hospital has prepared Christmas baskets with health and beauty items, festively wrapped and ready for you to buy and give away this Christmas.
What about arranging visas and the like, if I need to stay for an extended period?
At BNH hospital, if a patient needs to stay for an extended period when he is admitted to the hospital, we will arrange for an extension of visa for the patient. The length of the extension will be according to the period of time that the doctor stated on the medical certificate. One important thing that you have to keep in mind is that the visa should not be expired yet. If it is, the patient must go to the immigration office himself.
Can I get my insurance company to pay for my treatment in Thailand?
Most international health insurance plans are accepted by the hospital. To be sure you should always seek pre-approval from the insurance company first. BNH hospital will assist patients with this.
How do you see the future of the healthcare industry in Thailand?
Very positive. There is still a lot of room to grow.