Turkey aiming to become major player in health tourism
With numerous advanced hospitals, relatively low prices for treatments, strong government support in the way of public-private partnerships, and a strategic geographic location, Turkey looks set to become a major player in the lucrative health tourism industry. Middle East Health reports.
Turkey is going all out to tap into the lucrative global medical tourism industry. And why not – with a global industry estimated to be worth between US$38 - $55 billion there is a lot of money to be made. The country is doing a great job of marketing it’s position as a leading player in the competitive world of medical tourism – and this is supported by a number of key factors – its strategic location, the relatively low cost of healthcare procedures, the high number of technologically advanced and JCI-accredited hospitals, well trained doctors and medical personnel, significant government support for medical tourism and a generally well developed tourism infrastructure.
Thanks to its strategic geographical position, Turkey is at the centre of a vast pool of potential international healthcare travellers. Its geographical proximity to Europe, Asia, Middle East, North and Central Africa, Russia and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) means its potential patient client base is huge and worthy of investment.
Turkey now has an advanced healthcare system with many hospitals across the country having achieved accreditation from the respected Joint Commission International (JCI). JCI accreditation ensures hospitals adhere to the most rigorous international standards in quality and patient safety.
According to Patients Beyond Borders Turkey boasts a network of more than 1200 public and private hospitals. Many of its 300 private facilities have developed working relationships with prestigious international medical centres, such as Harvard Medical International, Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan- Kettering, and New York Presbyterian. Over the past decade the Turkish healthcare system has undergone the largest transition in its history. The successes of health reforms, specifically the Health Transformation Program (HTP), have brought about a significant improvement in the healthcare system.
And the expansion of the country’s healthcare system is expected to continue. A rapidly growing young population is one of the key factors driving demand for healthcare in this vast country. Over the next two decades, as the current young population of Turkey ages, there is likely to be a sharp rise in healthcare demand as almost 80% of a person’s healthcare requirements typically occur after the age of 40-50.
According to Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) forecasts, the healthcare sector in Turkey is set to grow by a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.6% between 2013 and 2017, while most developed countries will be experiencing relatively lower growth rates. Turkey is also expected to surpass the forecast world average with this growth rate. Investments in the healthcare sector are expected to continue as the government strives to increase the number of hospital beds per 10,000 population to 32 by 2023, up from the current figure of 27.2. The Turkish government has also taken on an ambitious healthcare public-private partnership program. The Ministry of Health is planning to open health “free zones”, which will include hospitals, rehabilitation centres, thermal tourism facilities, nursing houses, health tech cities and research and development centres, to be built in big cities where transportation will be relatively easy.
According to a government statement, there are plans to increase health tourism revenues to $20 billion by 2023.
Turkey is an attractive country for tourists in general. At the World Tourism Forum held in Istanbul earlier this year, TripAdvisor Vice President in Charge of Sales, Martin Verdon-Roe said that Turkey surprised the travel world in 2014 by becoming the most preferred country in the world for traveling. “Turkey has become a very popular place,” he said. It’s not difficult to see why – the country has a stunning array of attractions – from delicious indigenous cuisine to beautiful beaches, rich culture and numerous world heritage sites and historical landmarks of global significance.
Istanbul, itself is a major attraction. It was the third most visited city in Europe in 2014 attracting in excess of 10 million tourists.
Visiting Turkey for healthcare
The number of tourists visiting Turkey specifically for healthcare has been growing steadily year on year.
Actual figures of medical tourists vary depending on the source and the classification of what constitutes a medical tourist, but one thing is clear – it is a fast growing industry in the country. Government statistics show the number of foreign patients coming to Turkey to receive medical treatment increased at a CAGR of 38% between 2008-2012.
Figures released by Turkey’s Ministry of Health (MoH) put the number of medical tourists at 270,000 in 2012 and the ministry expects this to increase to 500,000 in 2015, and to 2 million by 2023.
Most health tourists came from Germany, Libya, Russia, Iraq and the Netherlands in 2012, according to the MoH. In 2012, the most common treatment were eye operations with a frequency of 25%, followed by oncology (13%) and orthopaedics (12%).
The cost of healthcare is considerably cheaper in Turkey compared to most economically advanced countries. Using US costs across a variety of specialties and procedures as a benchmark, the average range of savings in Turkey is 50-65%, according to research by Patients Beyond Borders.
Date of upload: 16th Nov 2015
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