Medical Tourism Developments From Australia


A fast growing trend being lamented by the Australian Medical Association is the developments in overseas medical treatments from Australia. Often the motive is primarily the ability to receive treatments at a much lower cost than in Australia.

Australians are traveling to countries including Thailand, India, South Korea, Turkey and Malaysia, and most recently to emerging tourism destination of Vietnam. Popular procedures include a  range of medical and dental work, cosmetic improvements to alter their personal appearance, though some are increasingly addressing medical needs with major surgery hospitals noting increased foreigner demand.

Rita Coleiro is an Australian who has undergone dental procedures twice in Thailand. She organised her own medical holidays first in Bangkok and then in the resort town of Phuket undergoing teeth whitening, dental bridges and crowns. “I don’t think their technology is that great in Australia, because they gave me a plate that goes under the roof of my mouth and with wires. Whereas in Bangkok the temporary tooth they gave me was just a tooth that kind of just slipped in, it was just amazing. Very, very cheap it would have cost me probably 160 dollars, whereas here they charged me 700 dollars for that barbaric thing they put in my mouth.” Rita Coleiro says even with flights and accommodation, the work she had done in Thailand was cheaper than it would have been in Australia – and quicker. “I just found them professional, clean, no waiting, no stuffing around. The work I needed done ideally should have taken about two weeks but I told them I didn’t have the time and they did it in like five days. They were just brilliant, I just found them more superior and much more advanced.”

More people are saying they would prefer to have it overseas because recovery can be away from family and friends or more interestingly they say  I’ll get better care overseas. There is also a perception now that you do actually get better care for obviously far less money.

However, members of the Australia medical fraternity and Associations still continue to advise people to be wary of overseas medical procedures. Obviously they have vested interests and are feeling the competition. Their view is to “be aware that the standards of medical facilities are often significantly less than they would be in Australia and without carefully inspecting all of the procedures they have in those hospitals they may not be aware of the risks that they are exposing themselves to.”

In actual fact, reports from Australians traveling within the Southeast Asian region are reporting that medical services and facilities at the most well respected hospitals are equal to that in Australia, and in many cases, superior. Add to that most doctors are very well trained foreign doctors or locals who  have  had extensive overseas training and experience.

Estimates are that medical tourism by Australians alone is a 300 million dollar a year industry with about 15,000 Australians travel overseas each year to undergo cosmetic procedures alone. Increased treatments including dental surgery and lasic eye surgery are quickly becoming a major area of foreigner treatment services provided by Asian clinics using modern facilities and equipment. Costs vary a lot overseas but cosmetic surgery is generally half or less than in Australia.

Research shows a growing number of people are going in groups. They are people who might not consider the surgeries if they didn’t have the opportunity to have an overseas holiday to facilitate recovery. Holidays are generally between a week and two weeks duration, often undergoing their surgery on the very first day. Spending a couple of days in immediate recovery and then spend the rest of the time in enjoyable low impact activities as easy as lying on a beach.

Australians who get plastic surgery done overseas are generally happy with the result and the vast majority of people not only having no regrets, but also saying they would do it again and recommend it to friends.

The Australian Medical Association, says “medical tourists can run the risk of a less-skilled surgeon, less sterilized conditions and a higher risk of infection from multi-resistant bugs. If they come back to Australia with complications, these can be extremely difficult to fix. And of course there can be, in many occasions, very little redress against the places where the surgery has been performed. People come back and can be seriously disfigured by the surgery that they’ve been subjected to elsewhere.”

However, research over the past few years has not shown any significant increase in resultant medical problems above that level experienced from Australian hospital institutions.

Various Asian countries are seeing medical tourism as a good source of revenue and as a potentially lucrative industry that would benefit their local medical industry. While there is some evidence that shows that the more international medical tourists are catered for, there are sometimes less facilities available for locals in terms of medical care. Within this, many top international standard hospitals and clinics are using lucrative services to foreigners to subsidize facilities and services for locals providing more extensive medical services at free or lower cost to locals.