Medical tourism is a relatively less known term. It means seeking medical treatment in a country other than your native country. The reasons for medical tourism are frequent, most primary of which is the lower cost of treatment, as compared to the cost in one’s homeland.
Pakistan has always been deemed as an attraction for medical tourism. It might surprise a few people but medical tourism in Pakistan has a long history. We will discuss this historical aspect, in detail, later in this discussion. The primary purpose of this discussion is to throw some light on the rise of medical tourism in Pakistan. We will also discuss some of the challenges faced by this industry in Pakistan.
Medical tourism in Pakistan
If we glance at the tourism policies issued by the government of Pakistan, medical tourism is quite frequently mentioned. The government has stressed on multiple occasions that medical tourism is one of its top priorities. A task force formed back in 2010 aimed to promote medical and wellness tourism in Pakistan. This is only one of the numerous ventures taken at the state level, to promote medical tourism in Pakistan. But the real question is: Can Pakistan compete with other countries when it comes to medical tourism?
Tourism officials certainly believe so. They believe that medical tourism in Pakistan is an untapped opportunity. The country is blessed with some of the best healthcare experts in the world. Some state of the art health facilities exists as well. These health setups provide treatments at much lower costs when compared to some other countries.
Treatments promoting medical tourism in Pakistan
There is a wide range of treatments, sought by people from all over the world. These treatments are of cardiac, cosmetic and fertility nature. Organ transplant and fertility treatments are the backbone of medical tourism in Pakistan. Let’s talk about these in a little detailed manner.
Cheap organ transplants have been the backbone of medical tourism in Pakistan. In the late ’80s, a large number of people from all around the world flocked to Pakistan in hopes of a cheap organ transplant. But authorities were quick to notice this, and legislations were made. Illegal kidney trading has been reduced ever since. However, organ transplants still attract patients from all over the world.
The lower cost in vitro fertilization treatment in Pakistan has also promoted medical tourism in Pakistan. Those who have infertility related problems travel to Pakistan for a world-class treatment at a much cheaper price. Compare to Dubai, prices of IVF in Pakistan are nearly three times less. Pakistan has more than fourteen IVF centers. This is a remarkable improvement when you consider the fact that in 1998, there were only three IVF centers in Pakistan. The average cost of IVF in the world is $12,000 and here in Pakistan, the price is around $5000. Let that sink in!
Where do the visitors hail from?
You might be wondering about the source countries, which are promoting medical tourism in Pakistan. Almost 90 percent of the Afghans who need treatment abroad travel to Pakistan. This has a lot to with the fact that poverty doesn’t allow them to avail high price medical facilities in countries like the US and UK. Apart from Afghanistan, patients from neighboring countries also visit Pakistan. Some Pakistani born US and UK nationals have also visited Pakistan for the same purpose in the past.
Challenges faced by medical tourism in Pakistan
Reputation matters a lot in the healthcare world. We mentioned this before as well, Pakistan was once, the biggest illegal organ transplant hub. Billions were made by kidney trading before laws were introduced to prevent it. While the government crack-down is pretty harsh, this illegal trading continues in a secretive manner.
Another challenge faced by medical tourism in Pakistan is the lack of infrastructure. True, the Punjab government built a 150-bed hospital for the kidney transplant to promote this industry. However, that is hardly enough. One cannot hope to increase medical tourism in Pakistan if healthcare infrastructure isn’t created and updated regularly.
Medical tourism in Pakistan is definitely on a rise in Pakistan. There is a lot of potential in this industry, concerning orthopedic, ENT, urology, optometric and cardiac fields. If given proper attention, medical tourism can certainly help in stabilizing the economy, as well as promoting a better image of the country.