In order to promote Turkey in the international health tourism, the Economic Ministry has prepared a "Health Services Export Strategy and Draft Action Plan." According to the draft, Turkish hospitals will be enabled to join sectoral trade and purchase delegations abroad in order to ensure that Turkey has a larger share of the global health tourism pie. Necessary initiatives will be made so that treatments in Turkey can be covered by foreign insurance companies.
The greatest number of international patients in the world is admitted by India, Thailand and the U.S. Countries like Turkey and Singapore are expected to come forward in this area over the next five years. Cosmetic and plastic surgery, dental treatments, oncology and organ transplantation services are expected to be the areas of rapid development in health tourism.
Health tourists prefer countries where they can have technology and quality at affordable prices, and they pay attention to whether hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) supervisory body. Turkey ranks sixth in the JCI accreditation ranking with its 48 health care providers.
Contrary to popular belief, foreign patients come to Turkey not only for hair transplant services or simple aesthetic surgeries, but also for more serious treatments. Patients receive services in fields such as radiotherapy, laser eye surgery, dental treatments, assisted-reproduction treatment, cardiovascular diseases, and organ transplants as well as in the main branches such as internal diseases and gynecology.
The strategy is aimed at boosting Turkey's service quality and competitive power in the areas of medical and thermal tourism as well as tourism for the elderly and disabled. To this end, the number of medical institutions, departments and doctors with international accreditation will be increased.
Joint projects will be undertaken by relevant parties for the establishment of elderly care villages and cure centers. A study will be carried out on the establishment of facilities that can provide healthy life and elderly care services and rehabilitation after operations within coastal hospitals. These facilities will also have operational units for health tourism.
The establishment of a mechanism for the accommodation of patients and their relatives is also aimed for, where there is the ability to provide transfer and transportation facilities. Patient consultation points will be set up in airports where foreign patients will be welcomed.
Moreover, an independent portal and call center will be established to serve in foreign languages in order to measure patient satisfaction.
According to the draft plan, a "health visa" enactment for international patients and their relatives will be facilitated. Patients and their relatives will be given a "residence permit" due to diseases requiring long-term treatment. The necessary legal framework and conditions will be determined through the coordination of the Ministry of Interior.
A "Health Promotion Group" will be established to promote Turkey in this area, and promotional activities will be carried out under state control. Slogans, brands and images appealing to target countries will be created in order to introduce Turkey's expertise and technology in the health sector.
In this context, branches in which Turkey and Turkish doctors are strong will be introduced on an international level.
In recent years, Turkey has seen considerable growth in health care tourism, which resulted in a record number of visitors from January to November. In the first eleven months of this year, health care tourism broke records with 751,000 tourists arriving in Turkey for treatment, according to the data obtained from the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC).
The sector hopes to serve 760,000 visitors by the end of the year. Health care tourism revenues are also expected to exceed TL 7 billion ($1.8 billion).
The number of health care travelers to Turkey reached 746,000 in 2015 with a revenue of TL 5.2 billion. But the number of health care tourists dropped to around 730,000 in 2016 due to terror attacks and the July 15, 2016, coup attempt.
In light of the 2017 data, THTC Founding Chair Emin Çakmak previously highlighted that Turkish health care tourism exceeded the 2015 figures.
"At the beginning of the year, we had a target to serve 750,000 tourists in health care tourism, which we have exceeded," Çakmak said, mentioning a target of 760,000 tourists with a total revenue of more than TL 7 billion. As for 2018, the THTC chair said the sector aims to provide services for 800,000 health care travelers and generate TL 7.5 billion in revenue.
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