TRANSPARENCY in medical packages as well as development and implementation of national policies on wellness and medical travel are among the concerns government should prioritize in order for the country to position itself as a leading international health care destination, a business leader said.

“Medical tourism is one of the few bright spots for the country. But more should be done for the country to develop its potential as an international health care destination,” said European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines executive vice-president Henry Schumacher in his recent visit to Cebu.

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Tourism, including medical and retirement tourism, was one of the industries touted as part of the seven “big winner” areas in the Philippines. The seven areas are expected to generate about 10 million jobs and $75 billion in foreign direct investments in the country in 2020.

In their recommendations to the Aquino administration, the Joint Foreign Chamber (JFC) highlighted the need for the negotiations on public insurance portability for international medical travel and retirement, promotion of transparency in medical travel packages and development as well as implementation of a national policy on wellness and medical travel.

Travel

They also called on the government to make possible the seamless travel of medical travelers and health professionals as part of exchange programs with overseas hospitals by issuing longer medical tourism visas for patients and their companions and streamlining procedures.

Schumacher said these concerns should be addressed for the country to compete with long-established medical tourism areas in Asia like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Medical tourism involves people traveling to other places to obtain medical, dental and surgical care while enjoying the areas’ other attractions.

Reports said medical tourism in the country continues to grow as the number of overseas patients and clients rose from 60,000 foreign patients in 2007 to about 100,000 in 2008.

Foreign patients prefer medical treatment outside their home countries primarily because of lower costs.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) expects the country to get a $3-billion share of the global medical tourism industry by 2015, with 200,000 foreign patients arriving annually.

“But of course we have to have things in place. Improve transparency, develop standard procedure, enhance English communication skills so we will be able to compete with other countries,” Schumacher said.

He also said the country has the potential to be a retirement destination.

Among the core health care services and treatment identified by the DOT to be in demand among foreigners visiting the Philippines are executive checkups, cardiovascular care, cancer care and stem cell therapy, joint replacement surgery, multi-disciplinary weight management care, eye care and sight restoration, dental care, aesthetic and dermatological surgery, spa wellness treatments and long-term care and retirement.