How medical tourism is putting strain on health systems in Asia

Medical tourists from all over the world come to Asia for receiving various types of treatments and surgical procedures. In Southeast Asian nations, there has been a quick growth in the medical tourism sector, with about two million people annually visiting these countries for treatments. However, according to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the skilled healthcare specialists and caretakers are involved in the treatment of medical tourists at private facilities. This has led to public medical facilities with the staff that is undertrained.


In remote or rural areas, there has been a constant shortage of trained medical professionals and resources. Experts suggest that it can become a critical issue in the near future if medical tourism keeps on draining skilled resources from the public health sector. In several Asian countries, there has been a good growth of medical tourism. Millions of medical tourists annually visit these countries for receiving affordable healthcare services. Further efforts have been going on to increase these numbers in near future. Undoubtedly, the brain drain is going to happen, as trained medical professionals would like to move on to the profitable private health sector.

Studies on issues related to health workers indicate that there has been an increasing trend of health worker migration to richer nations, which is not beneficial for poor countries. This is happening due to health workers receiving overseas training and accreditations. Additional factors contributing to brain drain include e-health services like medical transcription and increased investments in medical infrastructure. Even though these developments are done by the nations to attract more medical tourists, these are actually leading the talent to focus more on the medical tourism industry rather than catering to the domestic healthcare scene.


A shortage of health workers cannot solely be blamed to have happened due to migration issues. The lack of training to fill the resource gap is also a contributory factor. The actual requirement for countries is not to set up competing training facilities. In fact, they should work in collaboration so mutual investments can be made toward health worker training, as well as the development of entire health systems of these nations. There have been some efforts made in this direction by the UN nations, but these still need to take shape. For this purpose, the global healthcare structure should become sound and efficient. Thus, the strain put by medical tourism on Asian health systems can be observed, but there is a need to take major corrective actions globally.

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