More go abroad for healthcare

Updated: 2014-11-22 09:45

By Liu Zhihua(China Daily)

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More go abroad for healthcare

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 provided to 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.

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