Hainan, the upcoming medical tourism hub in China – Will it be able to deliver as expected?

Hainan, the southernmost and smallest province in South China with a conglomeration of islands is emerging as the oasis of Chinese medical tourism. The recent unveiling of favorable policies is expected to make this region gain a competitive edge in global medical tourism.

This province dotted with exotic beach resorts has everything in offer for both domestic and overseas medical travelers. The bright sunny climate and splendid coastal scenery have turned this place to a hot tourist destination welcoming about 50,000 travelers from China and other countries almost every year.

The newly launched action plan for the development of The Hainan Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism pilot zone to an internationally advanced medical zone is scheduled to be completed by 2025. The plan calls for setting up of advanced clinical center, a string base for R& D by introducing cutting-edge medical technology before the deadline. By 2030, the zone is set to be a world-class international medical tourism destination as well as a platform for innovations in medical science and technology.

Fresh reforms announced to boost The Hainan Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone

Reform plan of Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone of Hainan Free Trade Port

Image Source: boao9m.com

The Hainan province released comprehensive reform policies on Sept 1 named System Integration Innovation Reform plan of Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone of Hainan Free Trade Port. Prioritizing ecology and environment, some of the striking features of the plan are:

  • Facilitate trade in medical equipment and licensed innovative drugs. It also proposes building a “whole-process traceability platform” for licensed drugs and medical equipment not available in China and establishing a bonded warehouse for its storage.
  • Set up innovation and entrepreneurship platform to ease investments in this project.
  • Facilitate cross-border investment flow along with the liberalization of medical treatments and drug availability.
  • Adopt liberal measures to allow entry of foreign medical staff and accompanying members to create better talent reserve.
  • Launch ‘Global licensed drug insurance’ facilitating pharmaceutical insurance renewal.
  • Introduce innovative real world clinical data application for drug registration and registration of medical practices.

According to the head of the zone administration, the zone has introduced over 100 foreign innovative drugs and medical equipment for cardiovascular treatments, dermatology, ophthalmology, oncology, plastic surgery and infectious diseases.

Tend to reverse outbound medical tourism:

Hainan, the upcoming medical tourism hub in China

Setting up this province as a special economic zone for medical tourism was envisaged by the Chinese government in the wake of ever growing outbound medical tourism of China. This trend peaked in 2016 when half a million Chinese spent 7194$ each for abroad medical travel.

Outbound medical tourism in China stands next to the US. While other developing nations in Asia are reaping huge benefits from the soaring inbound medical tourism, China presents a reverse picture.  Seeking beyond the border medical support has become a trend for the affluent Chinese who do not rely on what is available back home due to multifarious reasons.

Rising number of high net worth individuals, burgeoning aging population, shortage of quality healthcare service and support, poor doctor to patient ratio and egregious approval policies related to drug and advanced medical treatments have given rise to immense dissatisfaction among the Chinese population. They find availing medical care abroad much less troublesome. Today, with improved connectivity, reaching the desired destination is quite within the reach of many.

The proposal of this special pilot medical tourism zone that got approval from the State council in 2013 is the first of its kind in China laced with lucrative features. The project has immense potential of turning the table of country’s medical tourism scenario. The project is aimed at luring high-heeled Chinese medical travelers and patients from beyond the borders.

Keeping in view of the various drawbacks and laggards that forced millions of Chinese catch the earliest international flight for quality medical service, the state council has provided 9 preferential policies and special approvals for this highly valued project. This includes:

  1. Fast approval of drug policies and state-of-the-art medical technologies
  2. Deploying the best medical talents
  3. Allowing overseas physicians practice medicine for up to 3 years
  4. Lowering the tariffs on specific medical equipments and devices
  5. Inviting 100% foreign direct investments

Ever since its inception, the project has seen a huge financial infusion amounting to $3 million with more than 20 projects running till date. The existing clinics and high-end hospitals planned in this project are set to offer a wide range of treatments from cancer to plastic surgery. It also plans to come up with well equipped medical centers to support the aged population.

Apart from offering state-of-the-art medical facilities, the project also has provisions for Traditional Chinese Medicine practices as a complementary and alternative medicine. Overseas patients benefitting from this traditional treatment are already singing the praises of its efficacy. An estimated 800,000 Russians visited this island province since last 7 years and 80% of them opted for some form of  Traditional Chinese Medicine either to treat ailments or for wellness purpose.

All in all, this project is envisaged to become one of the globally leading medical and wellness tourism hub keeping in view of the rising wellness craze amidst the global tourist population in the coming 7-10 years.

The project location encompassing 20 square kilometers with the placid Wanuan river flowing is giving high hopes of success as patients can enjoy leisure travel while undergoing treatments. It is expected that this project would contribute to 20% of Hainan’s tourism revenue in the next few years.

Special proposals for the Hainan Project:

plastic surgery industry

The proposal of this special pilot medical tourism zone that got approval from the State council in 2013 is the first of its kind in China laced with lucrative features. The project has immense potential of turning the table of country’s medical tourism scenario. The project is aimed at luring high-heeled Chinese medical travelers and patients from beyond the borders.

Keeping in view of the various drawbacks and laggards that forced millions of Chinese catch the earliest international flight for quality medical service, the state council has provided 9 preferential policies and special approvals for this highly valued project. This includes:

  1. Fast approval of drug policies and state-of-the-art medical technologies
  2. Deploying the best medical talents
  3. Allowing overseas physicians practice medicine for up to 3 years
  4. Lowering the tariffs on specific medical equipments and devices
  5. Inviting 100% foreign direct investments

Ever since its inception, the project has seen a huge financial infusion amounting to $3 million with more than 20 projects running till date. The existing clinics and high-end hospitals planned in this project are set to offer a wide range of treatments from cancer to plastic surgery. It also plans to come up with well equipped medical centers to support the aged population.

Apart from offering state-of-the-art medical facilities, the project also has provisions for Traditional Chinese Medicine practices as a complementary and alternative medicine. Overseas patients benefitting from this traditional treatment are already singing the praises of its efficacy. An estimated 800,000 Russians visited this island province since last 7 years and 80% of them opted for some form of  Traditional Chinese Medicine either to treat ailments or for wellness purpose.

All in all, this project is envisaged to become one of the globally leading medical and wellness tourism hub keeping in view of the rising wellness craze amidst the global tourist population in the coming 7-10 years.

The project location encompassing 20 square kilometers with the placid Wanuan river flowing is giving high hopes of success as patients can enjoy leisure travel while undergoing treatments. It is expected that this project would contribute to 20% of Hainan’s tourism revenue in the next few years.

Getting over the obstacles:

medical talent

All being said, there are certain obstacles that need to be surmounted to develop this region fast as a busy medical tourism hub else this area would turn into a ghost town.

Firstly, it is the severe shortage of quality physicians in China that needs to be taken care of. Deployment of top medical talent who would live and work in a developing area is not an easy task. Even substantial incentivizing may not help as per the requirement. Talented physicians may not be willing to settle in a lesser known region giving up their well built professional reputation.

Secondly, the egregiously slow approval policies related to drugs and other critical treatments can be a big dampener. Though the government is considering speeding of the approval process but that may back fire as well. If the drugs approved are available easily in other parts of China, the Hainan project would definitely lose its importance.

Hainan will offer temporary residence permit to highly qualified foreign professionals and specialists

female-surgeon

Hainan will now provide temporary residence permit to qualified foreign professionals and specialists including their families.  The island’s office for economic development recently announced that this permit will either be a 5-year or permanent residence. Specialists and professionals should have expertise in state-of-the-art technology and management that would contribute to Hainan’s key economic developments. Foreign professionals will have to seek recommendation from the provincial HR department whose approval will enable the same privilege to their families.

Other professionals who can avail residence permits (under certain terms and conditions) are:

  • Foreign entrepreneurs investing in Hainan for 3 years in innovative projects in compliance with existing fiscal laws and also others who have been in uninterrupted work for 4 years paying local income tax regularly.
  • Foreign staff and specialist technicians working as a caregiver for sick and elderly.
  • Foreign qualified and trained chefs to work in Hainan’s top class hotels
  • Patients and their families undergoing treatment in the island.
  • University graduated of Chinese University planning for innovative business in the island.

China government to release new policy to improve access for overseas medical drugs and equipment:

access for overseas medical drugs and equipment

Based on the clinical data collected from the pilot zone in Hainan province, use of imported drugs and medical equipment can be registered for easy access. Although the existing regulations allow such drugs and equipment to be used in this zone, complicated registration procedures stand as a big obstacle for their entry into the domestic market beyond the pilot zone of Hainan.

Imported drugs yet to be approved domestically get insurance cover

insurance cover on Imported drugs

In a new development, Hainan has released a novel medical insurance policy that will cover the cost of imported drugs that are yet to get domestic approval. This is another milestone in Hainan’s medical tourism development project where the sale of foreign make medicines unavailable in other parts of mainland China would be allowed.

The insurance supported by the government covers 70 anti-cancer drug meant for treating 35 common cancers. Of these, 49 drugs are yet to be approved in the Chinese mainland.  Residents of Hainan have to pay CNY29 covering CNY1m of total costs. Other residents of the Mainland China can also avail the insurance at a higher premium. The policy has been lauded as it promises in reducing the financial burden of cancer patients reducing their usual long wait for 5-10 years before the drugs get regulatory approvals for sale in the mainland China. Nearly, 600,000 resident of Hainan have availed the purchase by late September 2020.

Nearly, 600,000 patients from China fly out of their country due to delayed availability of suitable drugs and equipment. Four imported drugs of which two are for treating breast and lung cancer and 26 pieces of medical equipment are already in use in the pilot zone. The National Medical Products Administration is working with the Hainan government to frame fresh regulations to promote access of these drugs in the domestic market.

With all action plans taking shape in time, there can be no reason for the growing medical tourism hub in China live up to expectations.

Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team (C)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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