Lebanon Report

Lebanon’s leading hospitals continue to attract foreign patients


Lebanon is renowned as a tourist destination. It has many attractions including several UNESCO World Heritage sites. Its Mediterranean climate is a major drawcard with cool winters with good skiing in the mountains and dry warm summers with attractive beaches along the coast. In fact, Beirut was chosen in 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler as the best city in the Middle East, beating Tel Aviv and Dubai. The city is also famous for its night life appealing to the world’s trendy travellers.

On the medical tourism front, Beirut has several world class hospitals covering all medical specialties. The country’s has for many years been well known for its expertise in cosmetic plastic surgery, however its expertise in specialties such as cardiology and oncology is also becoming more widely renown and attracts patients from across the region.

Mounes Kalaawi, partner and chief executive of Clemenceau Medical Center (CMC), says 85% of foreigners who seek treatment in Lebanon do so for medical reasons other than cosmetic surgery.

According to a recent report in Executive magazine, international patients account for roughly 20% of the total number of patients in hospitals actively seeking medical tourists. Those patients are mainly from the region — 80% of Clemenceau Medical Center’s international patients are Arab — and feel that their countries cannot provide a competitive level of healthcare.

Dia Hassan, president and CEO of Bellevue Medical Center (BMC), was quoted as saying: “I was a consultant for some hospitals in the Gulf, and I can tell you that their level of treatment is not as advanced as ours.”

Mohamad Sayegh, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and vice president of Medical Affairs at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) noted, for example, that the Iraqis don’t have good resources for radiation therapy, so they come to Lebanon for treatment.

The number of Iraqis who come to AUBMC for treatment, mainly for cancer cases, has risen from 39% of the 2,297 international patients in 2010 to 58% of the 2,497 international patients in 2012. Both AUBMC and CMC plan to establish cancer centres in the coming years to keep up with the growing demand for such treatment, according to the Executive report.

CMC recently introduced robotic surgery to the region – which is much sought after as a non-invasive form of surgery.

Lebanon’s Agency for Investment Development in Lebanon reports that growth in the medical tourism industry is growing by up to 30% a year since 2009. The country’s tourism ministry is working closely with the medical sector and top-class hotels to create an organised, quality medical destination.

Major hotel and spa chains work with local clinics, travel agencies and the tourism ministry to create comprehensive healthcare and recuperation packages for foreign visitors. And the Government is involved in this industry and assists to make the process as easy as possible.

By expanding the medical tourism sector means creating new job opportunities and increase in the number of tourists coming to Lebanon. Because of this, the Lebanese government has established solid partnerships between medical facilities, travel agencies and the ministry of tourism. Attractively-priced travel packages are helping to boost the number of medical tourists, especially from the GCC countries.

According to the IMTJ (International Medical Travel Journal), the recent regional instability is affecting Lebanon’s medical tourism industry and some hospitals have experienced a decline recently in the number of foreign patients.

Kalaawi was quoted as saying: “We have a steady flow of international patients but this flow goes up and down according to the regional stability. The events of 2012 saw a reduction of international patients by 50% from certain nationalities.”

However, there has been an increase in the number of Syrian patients due to the war in that country and decline in the availability of healthcare there.

Lebanon is particularly attractive for patients from the Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE because there are no language barriers – most doctors are fluent in English, Arabic and French – and hospital staff are aware of the intricacies of Middle Eastern culture.

Although visitors from neighbouring Arab countries make up most of medical tourism patients due to its proximity, Lebanon is actively trying to attract more southern Europeans, Asians and North Americans to its hospitals.

Major hospitals like AUBMC and Clemeceau Medical Centre have dedicated departments to cater to international medical tourists and offer a comprehensive concierge service including remote consultation, travel arrangements, visas, accommodation arrangements for accompanying relatives, translation services and executive hospital suites for wealthy patients.  


Clemenceau Medical Center is one of world’s top ten best hospitals for medical tourism   

Clemenceau Medical Center (CMC), affiliated with Johns Hopkins International, was ranked one of the world’s top ten best hospitals for medical tourism in 2012 for the second time by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA). CMC Hospital was the only healthcare facility in the Arab world and Middle East region that made the list. MTQUA assessment was based on strict criteria including patient safety and security, medical quality and outcomes and International patient management.

“We at CMC are extremely proud to be identified as one of the leading health care institutions around the world. This award comes after we have achieved further distinctions in marketing, patient satisfaction and medical travel achievement since our first nomination and listing in MTQUA in 2010.” said Dr Mounes Kalaawi, Chief Executive Officer of CMC hospital. “Such awards set forth, Lebanon on the medical tourism world and allowing it to resume its role as the Pearl of Healthcare in the Middle East.”

This ranking comes in recognition of CMC’s continuous efforts to establish an internationally renowned reputation in the medical tourism sector. JCI accreditation in 2009 and 2012 has contributed to enhancing CMC’s position of the Medical Tourism World map. Since its inception, CMC worked tirelessly to bring the world’s best expertise, and adopting the world’s best practices and standards to the region, which inspired trust in Lebanese society & the Arab region. CMC’s experts lecture at the most advanced and specialized medical travel conferences shedding light on medical tourism in Lebanon & the Middle East.

CMC has established an International Patient Services Department to work with patients visiting the hospital from outside Lebanon to facilitate their referral through the provision of a complete scope of services; A multilingual staff is available to coordinate all aspects of a patient’s stay, such as the management of medical consultation and hospital admission, travel and hotel arrangements for patients and their families including an air ambulance depending on the distance and the condition of the patient, assistance in choosing the right doctor, scheduling of all medical appointments, coordination of admission process, processing of second medical opinion, and remote consultations via telemedicine, if needed.

This International Patient Services Department works closely with patients to make sure all referrals are smooth and that all requests are attended to in an efficient manner.

- Meanwhile, at the Hospital Build Awards 2013, held in Dubai in June, Clemenceau Medical Center won the “Best Healing Environment” award. The hospital was also commended for “Best Hospital Design”, “Best Physical Environment” and “Best Sustainable Hospital Project” awards.

“Today’s win is an achievement that we will honour by continuing to innovate our facility and services to meet and exceed the highest international quality standards and to expand not only locally but regionally as well in order to benefit the middle east region from state-of-the-art medical care,” said Dr Kalaawi.  

AUBMC’s passionate pursuit of advancing healthcare   

The American University of Beirut Medical Center’s (AUBMC) name is synonymous with advancing and revolutionizing medical care in Lebanon and the region since 1902. The AUBMC’s mission has been and will continue to be an academic medical centre dedicated to the passionate pursuit of improving the health of the community in Lebanon and the region through the delivery of exceptional and comprehensive quality care to their patients, excellence in education and training, and leadership in innovative research.

AUBMC has led the way by pioneering medical services and providing exceptional standards of quality health care for over a century. Today, AUBMC – thriving to meet the needs of over 300,000 patient visits annually – is the only medical institution in the Middle East to have earned the three international accreditations of the Joint Commission International (JCI), Magnet, and the College of American Pathologists (CAP), attesting to its superior standards in patient-centred care, nursing, and pathology/laboratory services.

Persevering to provide the highest standards of excellence in patientcentred care, education, and research in the Middle East, in the summer of 2010 AUBMC launched an ambitious new vision, the AUBMC 2020 Vision, propelling the Medical Center and medical care in the region to new levels of excellence.

As part of the AUBMC 2020 Vision and their commitment to providing the best healthcare services to patients, AUBMC has introduced many “first” and “only” healthcare advances to Lebanon and/or the region. These include the recruitment of 89 top-tier physicians in three years as well as breakthroughs and advancements in oncology, cardiology and many more.

AUBMC is committed to raising the level of health care in Lebanon and the region to standards similar to the best academic medical centres in the West. All of this is to provide patients in the Middle East with the level of care they deserve. After all, AUBMC says their lives are dedicated to yours.

 Date of upload: 18th Jul 2013


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