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Medical Tourism Market: The Case of Pakistan

Updated on November 27, 2014

Introduction

Medical tourism is distinguished from health tourism by virtue of the differences with regard to the types of intervention, setting and inputs. However, medical tourism, also called medical travel or health tourism. Medical tourism is a term that has risen from the rapid growth of an industry where people from all around the world are travelling to other countries to obtain usually “low-cost” medical, dental, and surgical care, while at the same time touring, vacationing, and fully experiencing the attractions of the countries that they are visiting. Medical or Health tourism has become a common form of vacationing, and covers a broad spectrum of medical services. It mixes leisure, fun and relaxation together with wellness and healthcare. The idea of the health holiday is to offer an opportunity to get away from daily routine and come into a different relaxing surrounding.

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Medical Tourism in Pakistan

The medical tourism in Pakistan is viewed as an untapped market that could be turned into a huge opportunity if the government "focuses on key issues"(As per the report of Express Tribune (dated April 17, 2012). According to this article Pakistan has a "huge potential" for becoming a regional hub for medical tourism, comparable to many other countries in its neighbourhood. According to claim of tourism officials, as reported by eTN Global News, Pakistan can compete with other countries in medical tourism, and could even be "less than half the price of India".

Most of medical patients who seek treatment in Pakistan are from neighbouring countries and mostly from Afghanistan and cannot be properly considered as medical tourist. According to the report of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, almost 90% of Afghans, who seek medical treatment abroad, travel to neighbouring Pakistan. The majority of Afghan patients are from the poorer strata of society who have access to free medical treatment in Pakistani government or philanthropic healthcare facilities.

Potential for Medical Tourism in Pakistan

According to Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), Pakistan offer services to medical tourists in orthopaedic, optometric, ENT, urology treatments, cardiac surgery, infertility treatments, plastic surgery such as liposuction, hair transplantation and cosmetic surgery at cheap rates besides offering facilities in endoscopies, X-rays, MRI, CT scan, cardiology, and arthroscopy. Costs for treatment in Pakistan are more than 100% lower (half) of the minimum doctors and hospitals charge abroad. The cost comparisons of different treatments as given by TDAP are:

Cost of Medical Treatment in Pakistan as Compared with Abroad

Treatment
Cost Abroad*
Cost in Pakistan
Liposuction
Rs0.7-0.8 million (US$ 7080 - 8095 approx)
Rs. 0.2 million (US$ 2085 approx)
Infertility Treatment
Rs2.5-3.0 million (US$ 25300 - 30360 approx)
Rs. 0.2 million (US$ 2085 approx)
The average cost of mega session of Hair Transplant (strip surgery
In USA $5000-$10,000 In Europe $4000-8000
US$1200- US$2000
Source: TDAP, "Healthcare Export/Medical Tourism Sector of Pakistan: A new thrust area for tourism" * cost abroad for liposuction & infertility treatment refer to average cost in Europe / developed countries calculated by TDAP
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The above table shows that liposuction can cost between US$ 7080 - 8095 abroad, while the same procedure in Pakistan can be done within US$ 2085 approximately, similarly, the cost for infertility treatment abroad can range between US$ 25300 - 30360, while the same treatment in Pakistan costs around US$ 2085 approximately. Similarly, the average cost of mega session of Hair Transplant (strip surgery) in USA is $5000-$10,000 and in UK it is $4000-8000, whereas, in Pakistan it usually ranges from $1200 to $2000.

In addition to above mentioned TDAP statistics, the Researchers of Consultant firm tried to get the average cost for different cosmetic treatments/ procedures but only a very few gave response and provided following prices for different procedures:

Cost of Different Cosmetic Treatment in Pakistan

Name of Clinic / Hospital
Procedure
Average cost (in PKR and US$)
Dr. Badar Cosmetic Plastic Surgery and Laser Centre
Abdamnoplasty
PKR 150000 (US$ 1520)
Aesthetic Care Skin And Laser Clinic
Rhinoplasty
PKR 95000 (US$ 960)
-do-
Liposuction
PKR 30000 - 50000 (US$ 305 - 505)
Saleem Skin Clinic
Consultation
PKR 500-1000 (US$ 5 -10)
-do-
Laser (hair) depend on condition
PKR 1000 above (> US$ 10)
-do-
Electrolysis
PKR 1000 above (> US$ 10)
The Skin Clinic
Liposuction
PKR 130000 (US$ 1315) ( depend on condition and body parts
-do-
Hair removal, skin
PKR 1000-5000 (US$ 10 - 50)
Plastic Surgery Hospital*
Liposuction
Free of cost
Laser Vision Centre
Catarct surgery (for on eye)
PKR 50,000-70,000 (US$ 505 - 710)
-do-
General eye surgery (for both eyes)
PKR 40,000-50,000 (US$ 405 - 710)
-do-
Minor surgery
PKR 10,000-15,000 (US$ 100 - 150)
Source: Data collected by the Author through telephonic contact (PKR = Pakistani Rupees) * Trust hospital provide FREE medical services
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Key Challenges for Medical Tourism in Pakistan

Pakistan can be the destination for medical tourism, if it addresses the following challenges to the medical tourism sector:

  • The continuing illegal organ transplant trade (especially kidney trade) has troubled the image of the country's medical tourism industry.
  • Despite there is a large base of doctors present in the country, the overall health infrastructure of Pakistan is not as advanced as to the international standards. Only a few numbers of modern and reputable hospitals exist.
  • Security-related issues and poor law & order situation have also prevented foreigners from travelling to Pakistan exclusively for seeking medical treatment.

© 2014 Ghualm Mohey-ud-din

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