Phuket Medical Hub Sets Sail for New Frontiers of Wellness

Sandra Sue Hanutsaha

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A superb holiday getaway with state-of-the-art medical services? Thailand’s southern province of Phuket, “where health is wealth,” is renowned for its holistic approach to wellness. Its robust medical & wellness industry has caught the eye of policymakers, and Thailand has moved to position the tourist destination as a world-class medical hub.

Global medical tourism at a glance

Medical tourism is both a high-value and high-growth segment of the tourism market. The average medical tourist will spend 50% more per trip than other travelers, and Grand View Research puts the industry’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 32.51% from now until 2030. 

A combination of several factors is driving this growth, from greater health concerns and aging populations to an anticipated rebound in global travel and the availability of affordable elective medical treatments, which are not covered by insurance.

The Asia-Pacific region stands to benefit from these trends, particularly Thailand. For instance, the cost of fertility treatments in the United States is generally double that of Thailand. Similarly, a lifesaving heart bypass would cost US$123,000 in the U.S. versus only US$15,000 in Thailand.

A Hindu Ramayana giant statue dons a face mask to remind passengers to keep COVID-19 precautions in Suvarnabhumi international airport (BKK)
A Hindu Ramayana giant statue dons a face mask to remind passengers to keep COVID-19 precautions at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Source: Nelson Antoine / Shutterstock.com

Thailand as a medical hub

Thailand’s ambitions to become the medical hub of Asia are well founded. The Land of Smiles ranks fifth for its medical tourism industry out of 46 destinations and boasts up to 61 JCI-accredited organizations, compared to 43 in India, 46 in China, and 63 in the remaining ASEAN member states combined. The Southeast Asian nation also serves as the production base for several major medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical firms.

Its healthcare bona fides are further complemented by a mature wellness industry as the spa capital of the world, with traditional Thai massage or Nuad Thai earning a spot on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Thailand’s world-class medical facilities, spas, and meditation retreats make it uniquely attractive to medical tourists who are looking for quality post-operative care and recovery.

The medical frontier in Phuket

Thailand’s southern province of Phuket has been singled out for its potential to cater to the medical & wellness segment of the tourism industry. Government initiatives are bringing greater investment into its healthcare sector, such as the Phuket Smart City Project and the Andaman International Medical Center Project.

As part of a suite of technical upgrades to public administration, Phuket hospitals under the smart city initiative have implemented a common patient ID system to facilitate referrals and transfers between medical institutions. Efforts to completely digitalize hospital administration are being pioneered at the island’s Vachira Phuket Hospital.

In late 2022, the Thai government approved the Andaman International Medical Center project aimed at transforming this leading resort island into a world medical hub. Aside from serving as a training center for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, the center will also function as a research & development base for healthcare and wellness.

Future living for all

Phuket has much to look forward to. More than Mai Tais, the resort destination is quickly becoming a frontier for creative gastronomy, smart city development, and now, an international medical hub. For many who arrive on its shores, Phuket is redefining what it means to live well.

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Sandra Sue Hanutsaha

West-Virginia-born Sandra Sue Hanutsaha, or Sandy, has extensive experience in Thailand’s English-language media landscape, alternatively serving as a television and radio newscaster, emcee, moderator, interpreter, and translator. Her passion for English is why she’s had the opportunity to serve as a university communications director, language consultant, and part-time English instructor at universities and for exchange programs, and continues to tutor in English.

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