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More People Go Abroad for Healthcare
   2014-11-22 16:49:45    China Daily      Web Editor: Guo

A visitor gets a health checkup at a JP Medical Health Investment booth at the Beijing International Tourism Expo in June. The project offers medical treatment abroad. [Photo: China Daily]

Western hospitals see China as new market for medical tourism.

Austrian-Chinese Cai Qiang is often asked whether he has connections with some top hospitals in the world, when he tells others he owns a company that assists Chinese patients to get overseas medical treatment.

Cai established the company in 2011, and it has developed contractual long-term partnerships with dozens of the world's best hospitals in countries including the United States, Germany, Britain and Singapore.

"The answer is no," Cai says.

"I didn't know anyone in those hospitals in the beginning. I started the business because I saw the huge demand from wealthy Chinese for world-class medical service."

A surgery at an overseas hospital would probably cost 500,000 yuan ($80,000), and in some extreme cases, patients may pay millions of yuan - sometimes without getting cured - but most of his clients think the treatment is worth the money, Cai claims.

Cai also observes that overseas hospitals, including the very best ones, are more eager to get newly rich Chinese patients.

In late May, Melissa Goodwin, manager of global referrals with the Mayo Clinic, a 150-year-old prestigious medical facility in research, education and practice in the US, visited China with several colleagues, seeking cooperation with Chinese hospitals.

"China has moved from nowhere to a relatively important place in our global strategy," Goodwin says, adding that the number of Chinese patients in her hospital has increased fast and will continue to do so.

There were about 200 Chinese patients going to the clinic each year in 2012 and 2013, but before that, the number was a few dozen.

During her visit, the clinic signed an agreement with a Chinese agency, promising to provide easy access for Chinese patients to get treatment at the US hospital.

About a third of the Chinese patients were referred by agencies, while the rest came to the clinic on their own, Goodwin says.

The Mayo Clinic is not alone in expecting a larger number of Chinese patients.

In mid-June, a delegation from Partners HealthCare International also paid a visit to China.

Programs in China

PHI is a leading integrated healthcare system in the United States founded by several top hospitals, including Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

During the one-week visit in Beijing, PHI announced a new cancer treatment program specially designed for Chinese patients, considering the rising incidence of cancer in China. According to the National Central Cancer Registry, 3.09 million Chinese developed cancer and 1.96 million died from it in 2010.

The program, Cancer Evaluation Service, is an outpatient service package for patients suffering from most prevalent cancers in China, such as lung, breast and gastric cancers.

Under the program, Chinese cancer patients will get comprehensive diagnoses and treatment plans based on individualized examinations and consultations, which will be conducted by a team of leading oncologists and medical experts in related fields.

Prices for the outpatient diagnosis and treatment plan are fixed, depending on the type of cancer, and the cost for further treatment varies from person to person.

Taking lung-cancer treatment for example: The Cancer Evaluation Service is $15,000, and the follow-up could be as high as $250,000, according to Edwin McCarthy, vice-president of PHI.

"PHI established its Shanghai office to tap the Chinese market as early as in 2002, but the timing was not good until in recent years, when Chinese people going abroad for medical service become part of a global trend ," McCarthy says.

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