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United States may remove federal cap on foreign medical students

January 3rd, 2010 by Formosa Medical Travel

U.S. to lift cap on intake of medical students

Aarti Dhar

Taken from The Hindu

NEW DELHI: The United States administration is likely to introduce a bill in the Senate and the Congress to remove the federal cap on the intake of medical students, according to the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), a body of physicians of Indian-origin in India. This would benefit international students, including those from India.

According to Vinod K. Shah of the AAPI, President Barack Obama has assured the association that his government would introduce the bill to add an additional 15,000 residency slots.

This has been a long-standing demand of the AAPI to increase residency slots for medical graduates to facilitate more international students join post-graduate courses, Dr. Shah told journalists at the Global Healthcare Summit here on Saturday.

The maximum intake of students by various U.S. universities at present is 18,000 seats, of which around 16,000 are reserved for the U.S. citizens, leaving only 2,000 for international students.

“If the bill is passed, it will benefit the students from India the most as they constitute about 30 to 40 per cent of the total international students selected to study in the U.S.,” Dr. Shah said.

The move is also expected to benefit India as it recently started recognising post-graduate medical courses obtained by Indian-origin students of five countries: the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“An official notification has been recently passed and included in the gazette to recognise PG medical courses certificates obtained by NRI students from these countries,” Ketan Desai, President of the Medical Council of India, said.

The move is to avail the services of students who receive expert training in these countries. They can start practising in India without going through any more tests, Mr. Desai added.

This year, the AAPI has roped in the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and top-notch Indian medical professional associations to make the summit a truly global one.

The summit will share best practices and experience from leading experts around the world to develop actionable plans for launching demonstration projects.

The focus will be on prevention, treatment and management of “priority disease states” in India with measurable metrics to ensure that the plans are viable.

It also aims at bringing together some of the world’s most renowned experts to focus on priority disease states such as allergy, immunology, cardiovascular, diabetes, infectious disease (HIV/AIDS), emergency medicine, mental health, and maternal and child health.

The summit will have a wider global perspective with the addition of medical tourism and health information technology.

Japan shows interest in medical tourism industry

December 28th, 2009 by Formosa Medical Travel

By Tomoko Otake

The Japan Times

While many Japanese companies have gone global over the years, making companies like Toyota, Sony and Canon household names in every corner of the world, the Japanese health care industry is focused largely on the domestic market and has long been shielded from pressure for change.


Most hospitals in Japan are not very foreigner-friendly. They have few doctors or staff who speak foreign languages. And some of their practices, including the notorious “three-minute consultation after a three-hour wait” leave foreign patients flummoxed. Medical procedures often seem based less on science than the doctor’s whim.


But change is afoot. As the majority of hospitals in Japan struggle to survive, interest in “medical tourists” from abroad is mounting. And that could help some hospitals become more international and accommodative toward foreign patients’ needs, experts say.


“If you go to hospitals in Thailand and Singapore, you would be amazed at how modernized and internationalized the hospitals there are,” said Dr. Shigekoto Kaihara, vice president of International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo. “They have multilingual reception desks, and even sections where they would sort out the visitors’ visa issues.”


Medical tourism is rapidly growing worldwide, and in Asia, Singapore, Thailand and India have emerged as major destinations for patients from the U.S. and Britain, where their skyrocketing health care costs have driven more people to seek treatment options offshore.


According to Washington-based Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, an estimated 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for medical care in 2007. That number is estimated to increase to 6 million by 2010. Several U.S. insurers, seeking to cut health care costs, have entered into tieups with hospitals in India, Thailand and Mexico, the center said in a report.


Although medical tourism is still in its infancy in Japan and there are no official statistics on how many foreigners come here for treatment, there are signs the government is getting serious about attracting more in hopes of making hospitals more internationally competitive and making it easier for foreigners to visit and stay in Japan.


The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released guidelines for hospitals in July on how to attract such travelers, noting Japan boasts “cost-effective” health care and advanced medical technology.


“By introducing Japan’s health culture and the underlying health care system abroad, Japan can make contributions to the world in areas other than manufacturing, and can also shore up related industries domestically,” the guidelines say.


METI will soon launch a pilot program under which two consortiums, made up of hospitals, tour operators, translators and other businesses, start accepting patients from abroad.


Under the program, 20 overseas travelers will be brought to Japan by early March for health checkups or medical treatment at hospitals, said Tadahiro Nakashio, manager of marketing and sales promotion at JTB Global Marketing & Travel, which has been selected as a consortium member. He said the company will bring in patients from Russia, China, Hong Kong,Taiwan and Singapore.


Nakashio said some of visitors will combine sightseeing with their hospital visits, staying at hot springs resorts or playing golf, during their weeklong stay.


The Japan Tourism Agency convened a panel of experts in July to study medical tourism. The agency, which aims to boost the number of overseas tourists to 20 million by 2020, will soon start interviewing hospital officials in Japan and their foreign patients, as well as researching the practices in other parts of Asia, said Satoshi Hirooka, an official at the agency.


“We think of medical tourism as one of the ways to achieve our 20 million target,” Hirooka said. “We decided to research this further, as Thailand and South Korea  are very active on this front, with medical tourism making up 10 percent of their total inbound tourism volume.”


Although the numbers are small, Japan has a track record of accepting medical travelers.


Tokyo-based trading company PJL Inc., which exports car parts to Russia, started bringing Russians, especially those living on Sakhalin island, to Japanese hospitals four years ago.


According to Noriko Yamada, a director at PJL, 60 people have visited Japanese hospitals through PJL introductions since November 2005. They have come for treatments ranging from heart bypass surgery to removal of brain tumors to gynecological screenings. PJL receives fees from patients for translating documents and interpreting on site for them.


One morning in October, a 53-year-old Sakhalin business owner visited Saiseikai Yokohama-shi Tobu Hospital in Yokohama to seek treatment for shoulder pains and other health problems.


The man, who declined to give his name, said there may be MRI scanners on Sakhalin but none work properly.


“The doctors and staff are good here, better than the ones in Russia,” he said in Russian as Yamada translated. “But not everyone can come. You have to have a certain level (of income) to receive care in Japan.”


The hospital’s deputy director, Masami Kumagai, said the key to success in building up the medical tourism industry is finding enough skilled interpreters and translators who can communicate patients’ needs to hospitals before they arrive.


“In health care, the textbook approach to translation won’t work,” she said. “Translators must have a deep understanding of the patients’ social and cultural backgrounds. And even with advance preparation, patients sometimes cancel tests at the last minute because they have spent their money elsewhere, like sightseeing in Harajuku.”


Medical tourists are not covered by Japan’s universal health care system, which means hospitals are free to set whatever fees they like for such patients. As Japan’s health care is known for being relatively cheap, patients from abroad are generally satisfied with the care they get here, even when they pay up to 2.5 times more than Japanese patients under the national health insurance scheme, experts said.


At Saiseikai Yokohama hospital, Russian patients are charged about the same as those covered by national health insurance, Kumagai said.


Through dealing with foreign patients, hospital staff have grown more sensitive to patients’ needs, Kumagai said.


“We try to offer quality service to Russian patients who come all the way here, just the way we have tried to offer quality service to domestic patients,” she said.


“For example, we have found a local bakery that sells Russian bread, and serve it whenever a Russian patient stays overnight.”


John Wocher, executive vice president at Kameda Medical Center, a 965-bed hospital group in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, said hospitals in Japan could market themselves more by obtaining international accreditation. Kameda in August became the first hospital in Japan to get approval from the Joint Commission International, a U.S.-based hospital accreditation body aimed at assuring the quality and safety of care.


Worldwide, more than 300 health care organizations in 39 countries have been accredited by JCI.


To be approved, hospitals must pass inspection on 1,030 criteria, including infection control and protection of patient and family rights.


Wocher, who has spearheaded the hospital group’s efforts to obtain accreditation, said it didn’t seek the JCI status just to attract more foreign patients, but it certainly helps.


Kameda now gets three to six patients per month from China, mainly for “ningen dokku” (preventive and comprehensive health checkups) and postsurgery chemotherapy that uses drugs patients cannot get in China.


Wocher expects to accept more patients from abroad next year, having recently signed an agreement with a major Chinese insurer that covers 3,000 affluent Chinese and expatriates.


Wocher said that accepting medical tourists from abroad would benefit long-term foreign residents in Japan as well, by expanding hospitals’ multilingual capabilities and amenities, although these might come at an additional cost.


“I think that the infrastructure required to accommodate medical travelers will benefit all foreign residents as hospitals become more foreigner-friendly,” he said. “Much of the infrastructure will involve patient choices, perhaps choices that were not available before.”


But for medical tourism to grow in Japan, the government needs to do more, Wocher said, noting the government has so far invested almost nothing in this area.


In South Korea, the government is spending the equivalent of $4 million this year to promote medical tourism. It issues a medical visa promptly when foreign patients get a letter from a South Korean doctor saying they will be treated there, he said.


But Toshiki Mano, a professor at Tama University’s medical risk management center, sounds a cautious note. Japanese hospitals face a shortage of doctors, particularly in high-risk fields such as obstetrics and gynecology. They might face public criticism if physicians spend more time on foreign patients who are not part of the national health insurance system.


“There would be a battle for resources,” Mano said.


But he added that accepting more patients from abroad could substantially help hospital finances. “It would give hospitals one way to make up for their sagging revenue,” Mano said.

India medical tourism visa holders to leave for 2 months every 90 days

December 25th, 2009 by Formosa Medical Travel

Taken from: The Economic Times

NEW DELHI: The tightening of visa rules may impact India’s fledgling medical tourism industry. The guidelines, to be notified next week, specify that foreigners in India on a tourist visa, who have stayed in the country for over 90 days, will need to take a two-month “time-out” before returning.

This rule is bound to hit medical tourism, say experts from the sector. Explaining the drawback, a person associated with a prominent hospital, said, “Most of the patients and their relatives from nearby countries come here on tourist visas for treatment. After the surgery/treatment is done, they return to their respective countries but come back on the same tourist visa for review or further examination. But the new rules banning them from entering the country for at least two months is a major hurdle in their treatment process. This will only benefit our competitors such as Malaysia”.

He said that certain treatments require patients to stay a little longer than two months. Edris Foshanzee from Afghanistan is facing the same problem. Waiting for his turn at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in R K Puram, he said, “I have been trying for an extension for the treatment of my 50-year-old mother for the past 14 days. The hospital said that my mother needs a surgery for which we need to stay longer. Why are visa norms getting stricter?”

Nods 86-year-old Hazi Mohammad Azim from Afghanistan, who was waiting in the long queue since 9 am. After a back-breaking wait of five hours, he fumes, “There’s still no clarity. I am suffering from throat problem and tomorrow my visa will expire. But I need an extension to continue my treatment.”

The changes have been introduced after the arrest of US national and terror suspect David Headley, who allegedly used his multiple-entry visa to the country, for terrorist activities. The US Embassy, meanwhile, has put up several complaints on its website. “The US Embassy and consulates in India have received reports from individuals about inconsistent implementation of the new rules which have not been widely publicised and are subject to change,” said the US mission here.

The confusion is palpable at the FRRO. A fundraising advisor and capacity builder with the National Trust, Michael J Rosenkrantz, was seen waiting since 9:30 am for an extension of his work visa — earlier the tourist visa doubled up as work visa. “Although so far I am not facing any problems, it would definitely affect tourists. I hope the Indian government takes some measures to ease entry for tourists and patients,” said Rosenkrantz.

Tourists too have started encountering hurdles in registration. Anahita Izadi from Iran said, “I was in India two years ago. Things are getting worse and tougher. Rules are not clear. I was in the queue for three hours and now to get to the next counter it will take another three hours.”

FRRO officials, however, said that the rush is due to the holiday season.

Asian Medical Tourism Market to Post Double Digit Growth Rate

October 12th, 2009 by Formosa Medical Travel

PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 12, 2009 – High cost of treatments in developed countries is proving beneficial for medical tourism market in Asia. Resultantly, the region has emerged as one of the fastest growing medical tourism destinations worldwide. According to our new research study “Asian Medical Tourism Analysis (2008-2012)” the Asian medical tourism market is projected to grow at a CAGR of around 14% during 2009-2012.

We have done an extensive research and analysis of both current and past market trends at country level to give qualitative information of the Asian medical tourism industry’s progress over the past few years. Analysis has been done of all major markets like India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines.

According to our research, Thailand and Singapore are dominating the market and this trend is expected to continue in future as well. The research also highlights the reasons that are driving growth in these markets, along with roadblocks before the industry.

Going ahead, our research also studies the market on types of treatments and surgeries sought by foreign medical tourists. After thorough evaluation, we have found that most of patients come for high cost surgery like Orthopedic, Cardio, and cosmetic surgery. In this segment, our research provides detailed information and analysis of number of tourist arrivals, cost analysis of different treatments and other demographics. The report gives comprehensive information about target country level market which will help clients in defining and planning their market strategy in a better way.

“Asian Medical Tourism Analysis (2008-2012)” also provides information of key competitors in the market along with their business information and areas of expertise. This will give client an additional edge over other competitors in the market. Overall, our research study provides valuable information to clients looking to venture into these markets and helps them to devise strategies while going for an investment/partnership in these markets.


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