ISTANBUL — In an effort to offer better service to tourists visiting Turkey, the Ministry of Health has developed a smartphone app for visitors to find the nearest hospital or clinic where doctors who speak their language are available.
Using an app for smartphones and tablets, users will be able to locate the nearest doctors who speak their mother tongue in the case of an emergency or if treatment is needed. A database of doctors fluent in one or more languages was set up and doctors at public and private hospitals will be registered in the database for the app. The Ministry will advertise the app at airports and travel agencies in several countries. The app will also provide information on doctors' professional backgrounds and medical specialties. The Ministry of Health already administers a hotline for foreigners in the event of a medical emergency and provides information on medical services. The hotline offers assistance in English, German, Arabic, Russian, Farsi and French.
Turkey also plans to set up offices abroad to promote medical tourism. The government looks to transform Turkey into a medical tourism hub and diversify its tourism services away from conventional leisure travel that has been concentrated along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. The country, sixth in the world with 34 million tourists visiting annually, seeks to boost tourism revenues while branching out. According to the Ministry of Health, about 262,000 patients from various countries visit Turkey every year for treatment and surgeries. To increase the number of tourists visiting for medical purposes, the government plans to establish a Medical Free Zone, similar to free trade zones. The zone will provide incentives for foreign and local investments in building health complexes, which will primarily serve foreign patients.
Turkey's appeal as a preferred destination for medical tourism has flourished with the opening of well-equipped modern hospitals, particularly in the private sector, serving patients from countries with less developed healthcare systems as well as patients seeking more economical surgeries or treatment.
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