It is not surprising to see planeloads of medical tourists from China travelling abroad to Japan, Korea, US and other affluent countries to get their health disorder rectified. The wide quality difference in healthcare abroad compared to that delivered back home in China, a Chinese medical tourist openly admits his preference to fly to the US.
Medical spending touched an astounding figure averaging out around USD 7194 per Chinese patient seeking treatment in the US and other countries [jingdaily.com]. Although the exact numbers are not known, the practicing medics and the hospital authorities at California, Oregon and Washington reveal that the affluent Chinese medical customers have a high inclination towards foreign hospitals.
In fact, China outperformed the US in the global ranking chart occupying the topmost position in travel spending covering leisure, medical and wellness travel. This spending is to continue its steep rise of about 86% in the coming 10 years or so. [jingdaily.com] In spite of slow down of Chinese Economy since 2015, the Chinese spending on international travel grew by 13%.
The reasons responsible for this massive outflow of the Chinese healthcare seekers are multifarious.
Stupendous growth HNWI (High Net Worth Individuals):
The world has experienced the steep growth of Chinese economy. The consequent rise in the number of HNWI has been one of the key driving factors that set the huge market of outbound medical tourism.
The number of HNWI that was 7090 in 2005 surged sharply to 30,500 in 2015.These HNWIs fell into the multimillionaire bracket each possessing wealth worth more than $10 million. The number is projected to touch 53,380 by 2025. [list.juwai.com]
Shortage of quality healthcare service and support:
Although the Chinese economy grew by leaps and bounds, the healthcare sector lagged in providing the required medical treatment and support. The government-run hospitals face an acute shortage in good doctors, medicines and other life saving medical facilities that could aid a patient’s survival and total recovery.
Due to this, not only the well-heeled but the middle-class with enhanced spending capacity is also joining the bandwagon to avail better healthcare services in a foreign land.
Poor doctor to patient ratio:
Back in the year 2012, in China, the number of doctors available per 1000 people touched a poor number of 1.6 only. When compared with the other developed nations, it will certainly put the Chinese government in embarrassment. For others, it is 3.2! This is a clear indication of the fact that China is limping far behind others in matters of medical treatment available to its massive population base. [ibtimes.com]
The absence of standardized pricing system:
A system of unfair billing exists in Chinese hospitals depending upon the level of affluence of the patient admitted. For wealthy patients, the medical bill usually comes with a surcharge.
In China, quality hospitals do exist; it is not all that bad a scenario. However, these hospitals always remain crowded. Therefore, for a common man to get access to these facilities is almost next to impossible.
Rising dissatisfaction in the domestic healthcare system:
A lot of people in China rely on important contacts and means of bribery to get an access to doctors. This is another reason why the Chinese crowd frustrated with the domestic healthcare system is turning towards other countries for healthcare services paying extra and going that extra mile to take pains and travel abroad where language is a major barrier.
People often opine that in China it is hard to locate a genuinely qualified physician. Generally, the trend is to search for the best doctor and when they fail in their hunt, they look outside.
The steep rise in aging and urban population:
The rapid aging of the Chinese population is another driver for increased outbound medical tourism. The population of 60+ aged Chinese is projected to touch 240 million by 2020. Coupled with the fast growth of urban population, the demand for quality and urgent medical services skyrocketed. The government in spite of increasing its spending on health care failed to cope up with this sudden surge of demand and set up the quality of treatment at par with the global standard.
The rising demand for aesthetic treatments:
The effect of global image consciousness is felt in China too! Half of the HNWI place healthcare at the top of their priority list. They are willingly flying to distant lands for cosmetic and aesthetic treatments to enhance their appearance.
Getting feel-at-home comfort in the distant land:
There are approximately 4 million Chinese occupying the US mainland who have wealth to the tune of millions of USD. Well settled doctors in the US of Chinese origin are making things very easy for the Chinese visitors. They offer a lot of personalized care and various treatment options which often include Traditional Chinese Medicine.
These docs have gradually developed a bonding of trust laced with a subtle sense of fellow-feeling that pulls a bigger crowd. The result is a major portion of the Chinese population in China is looking forward to travelling abroad. They are ready to pay anything to avail the best healthcare service.
No doubt, the destination countries have been reaping great benefits due to this medical exodus of the Chinese. As an obvious consequence, the physicians, hospitals and the entrepreneurs of these countries are leveraging the highly flourishing chance to spread a red carpet for the affluent Chinese medical tourists.