Submit Press release  ∑ eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Medical tourism

American tourists check in for checkup

Jul 27, 2008

A group of Americans visited South Korea not only to go shopping and traveling but get high-quality, state-of-the-art medical treatment at relatively lower costs.

In a Health Promotion Center at Inha University Hospital in Incheon, Thursday, they had a comprehensive checkup, including x-rays and blood tests.
They listened carefully to doctors and looked excited regarding the ``new'' experience.

They were among 29 Americans whose two-week trip to Korea included a medical program jointly developed by the LA branch of Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and an LA-based travel agency Aju Tours.

Although some individual foreigners have visited Korea for medical treatment, this was the first group of tourists to come to Korea on a ``medical tourism'' package.

The government and some hospitals are joining hands to promote medical tourism programs, capitalizing on reasonable prices and quality medical skills, especially in cosmetic surgery and other treatments.

David Sutherland, 40, never received such a comprehensive health checkup in his homeland. Each of the American tourist paid $450 for the checkup.

``In the U.S., this kind of health checkup costs thousands of dollars. I can't even imagine,'' he said,

Sutherland said he worried about his prostate as his father had prostate cancer, but he had never got checked due to high costs, as he does not have health insurance in his home country. The blood test at Inha covered the prostate examination, he said.

``I'll recommend that those who don't have health insurance have health screening in Korea,'' he said, adding that before he came to Korea, he did not know how modern and professional Korea's medical status was.

Joyce Hill, 51, said the quality of Korea's medical technology is very much the same as that of America, saying in the U.S. it is difficult to get such a checkup and it costs a lot.

``This hospital has good facilities and staff are very caring. I was satisfied,'' she said.

The results of the examination take four days. Patients can check online at the hospital's English Web site, or receive them by post. The tourists will have consultation with doctors about the results at Incheon International Airport's medical clinic, which Inha operates, when they leave Korea next Monday after traveling across the country.

In the afternoon, they moved to Anacli Dermatology-Plastic Surgery Clinic in Gangnam, southern Seoul, to get skin care. Doctors from the clinic consulted them at their hotel the previous evening to prepare for treatment.

Sixteen of them received superficial peeling, which cost $200 each. Hill had her face lifted, while Mark Halloran, 47, received a Botox injection around his eyes and a filler injection to remove wrinkles around his mouth. The prices are about half of those in America.

``I've never thought about having Botox before. The travel agency gave us a presentation about the clinic and Korea's modern cosmetic industry, and I decided to get it,'' Halloran said, adding he'd like to see what his kids would say when they see their ``young dad.''

Medical tourism in Korea is at its initial stage. The program for the American tourists came after KTO and six hospitals gave a promotional presentation in LA last month to medical tourism coordinators and travel agencies.

``Korea has good conditions for medical tourism. Compared to the U.S., Korea offers cheaper and faster medical services with high medical technology. The price of medical examination and treatment in Korea is about 15-25 percent of that in America,'' Joung Jin-su, KTO director for tourism product development team, said.

In 2007, 16,000 foreigners visited Korea for medical tourism, and 20,000 are expected this year, he said.

``Compared to Singapore, Korea's medical tourism has disadvantages in climate, tourism resources and English fluency. But in terms of medical quality, Korea has almost the same technology as America, and is superior in treating some diseases such as stomach cancer. And in terms of medical instruments, Korea is one of the world's best,'' said Park Seung-rim, president of Inha hospital.

More government-level support is needed for the success of medical tourism, Park said, such as allowing hospitals to promote themselves to overseas patients and preparing rules for the case of medical disputes.

American tourists check in for checkup
Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

Premium Partners