Traditional medicine products on display at a workshop held in HCM City on Wednesday. — VNS Photo Ngọc Diệp
HCM CITY — Traditional medicine and acupuncture, dental care, cosmetic surgery, pathological screening, and artificial insemination will be improved to make them HCM City’s main medical tourism products in the coming years, a workshop heard on Wednesday.
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Hoa, deputy director of the city Department of Tourism, said medical tourism had great potential along with agri-tourism, eco-tourism and inland waterway tourism.
According to the Việt Nam National Administration Tourism, the number of foreign tourists coming to Việt Nam for tourism combined with healthcare has been increasing in recent years and revenues are now worth around US$2 billion a year.
Last year some 300,000 foreign visitors visited hospitals in the country for health checks and treatment, including 57,000 inpatients.
Hospitals in HCM City accounted for 40 per cent of the number.
The World Tourism Organisation has forecast the top six global trends of the future are health tourism, responsible tourism, eco-tourism, community tourism, smart travel, and creative tourism.
“Developing medical tourism products is not only in line with the global development trend, but will also contribute to diversifying the city’s tourism products and tourism sector development,” Hoa said.
Her department is working with the health department to develop medical tourism by 2025, with a focus on traditional medicine and acupuncture and dental care.
“Hospitals should improve their doctors’ professional skills and develop general and specialised clinics meeting international standards.”
The city also needs to improve communication between travel companies and hospitals to develop tour packages that include medical services, and introduce its new medical tourism products to foreign visitors through the media, according to Hoa.
Phan Yến Ly of Saigontourist’s inbound division said it was necessary to develop unique products to foster medical tourism in the city.
“Promoting marketing and having well-defined target customers are very important.”
There was also a need to reduce the patient overload at hospitals and improve the quality of their medical services, she added.
Nguyễn Thị Huỳnh Mai, chief of the health department office, said the city had many quality hospitals that could help develop medical tourism.
"The cost of healthcare is low compared to other countries in the region while the quality of doctors and equipment are not inferior," she said.
“Prices would be the first criterion for almost everyone since a majority of them travel looking for more affordable healthcare services.”
"For example, an implant in Việt Nam costs from US$700 and a porcelain crown starts at just $250, a third of the cost in the US or UK," she said.
For cosmetic dentistry, a designed smile (full mouth 18-20 crowns) costs only $9,000 in Việt Nam, while in Canada, the US or any other developed country it would cost $45,000 or even higher, according to Mai.
Technical skills and experience are the next things people research about. “No one wants to risk their health with some unskilled doctors,” Mai said.
The health department has launched a mobile app called Medical Tourism Assistant which helps patients seeking basic information on healthcare services and hospitals in the city.
It plans to develop the app in English to meet the demand from foreign tourists next year.
Last year it also released a medical tourism guidebook in Vietnamese and English with basic information about travel and healthcare in the city.
The workshop offered an opportunity to hospitals to introduce their medical services and packages for tourists such as treatment methods and techniques used in traditional medicine, skin care and beautification using needle therapy, screening for gynecological cancer and infertility treatment, screening for cardiovascular diseases, and dental care.
It was organised on the sidelines of the 15th annual International Travel Expo HCM City being held from September 5-7 at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Centre in District 7. — VNS