Thailand is increasingly becoming Asia’s leading destination for the rapidly growing market in global health tourism. The familiarity of foreigners with Thailand allied to comparatively low medical costs and a growing number of extremely well equipped hospitals is fuelling the boom in numbers travelling to the Land of Smiles for surgery, dental and other health care.


The Joint Commis sion on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) is an independent, non-profit body that evaluates health care providers in the United States. In the 1990’s JCAHO formed the Joint Commission International (JCI) to assess hospitals outside the US and to date it has recognised 14 hospitals in Thailand as reaching its high standard and gaining full accreditation. In addition there are around 400 hospitals in Thailand offering advanced western style healthcare at a fraction of the cost available in the west.

Price is a major driving force in the reason for the astonishing growth in the Thai medicare industry and the price differential for all procedures is enormous. A heart bypass that would cost $130,000 in the United States is available for $11,000 in Thailand’s leading hospitals.  Want to replace a knee, a procedure that in the US would cost upwards of $40,000 is a quarter of the price. The story is the same for almost all major surgeries.

The picture is the same for less urgent conditions. Thailand’s doctors have long been considered some of the best in the world for cosmetic and plastic surgery and hundreds of thousand visit Thailand to take advantage of these skills at cut price rates compared to home. A facelift in Thailand costs less than half the price it would be in the west; hair replacement a quarter.

There is an even bigger saving in dental care, a root canal that would cost between $500-2,000 in America or Europe is just $150 in Thailand; implants, crowns, whitening or just cleaning all are vastly less expensive than the West.

Are these savings at the cost of care and facilities many will ask – absolutely not! Thailand’s accredited hospitals are as well equipped with the latest equipment as any in the developed world. Many of the doctors and surgeons have trained in the United States and Europe and are fully up to date with the most modern methods of healthcare. Most doctors speak excellent English and can converse fluently with their patients. And if there are any language difficulties all JCI accredited hospitals have multilingual translators on hand.

A walk around a leading Thai hospital will reveal it to be spotlessly clean and have a large number of nurses and other ancillary staff to care for a patient’s every need. Many who visit Thailand for healthcare comment on the excellent nursing care. There is a culture of caring among nurses in Thailand which compares very favourably with the west where it is acknowledge that staff shortages and administrative demands have led to a decrease in the quality of nursing.

Many who come to Thailand for medical care, and they now number of 1.5million people a year, use the savings they make to enjoy a holiday after their treatment. Thailand is a wonderfully relaxing country which makes recovery and rehabilitation a pleasure.

It is no wonder that medical tourism is on the rise, a trend that is also supported by various government initiatives.