Not only is Vietnam attractive for its beaches, architecture, history and splendid landscapes. Increasingly, tourists are also coming to the country for medical purposes, particularly for dental and cosmetic surgery according to the Government.
According to Vietnamese officials, some 80,000 foreign travellers came in 2018 for medical purposes, with dental and cosmetic surgery being the top purposes. Affordable healthcare and relatively high medical quality are driving the trend as medical care in Vietnam remains far more affordable than in Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. “I do see a trend of people coming here. It is cheaper to get things done here than it is in Thailand and definitely Singapore,” said Mike Lynch, managing director with SSI Institutional Brokerage in Ho Chi Minh City to radio station Voice of America. “The biggest group is cosmetic surgery. There’s a lot of it going on here,” he added.
According to surveys, Australians and Americans favour dental health care while cosmetic surgery draws South Koreans.
More than 80,000 foreigners have travelled to Vietnam so far for medical “examinations and treatments” the government-run Vietnam Investment Review news website says, and they contributed combined income of more than $1 billion. The country’s medical sector grows 18% to 20% per cent every year, according to the Vietnam Investment Review. However, some consulting firms put already the financial benefits of medical tourism at over US$2 billion.
Medical tourism generates at least one-third of private hospital revenue in most Southeast Asian countries, and the Asia Pacific was the world’s biggest medical tourism market as of 2017, Zion Market Research has found.
To fully set medical tourism as a strong feature of Vietnam tourism, the government must now set up very strict rules regarding medical practices while listing all the medical units (hospitals and clinics) qualified for the handling of international guests. A list of destinations must also be set up but resort areas such as Nha Trang, Danang and Phu Quoc are seen as ideal to handle medical tourists thanks to their infrastructure and hotel facilities. In order to maintain foreign patients’ interest, it is important for all hospitals to invest in better infrastructure and skilled human resources.
The government will also need to address inefficient mechanism to collect international insurance payments as it discourages people from returning for further checks after having surgeries done in the country.