Thailand Makes Healthcare Affordable
On my last trip to Bangkok, one of my goals was to get a physical exam as well as have some medical tests done. I had heard the health care costs are much, much less than in the U.S.
Just four days after my arrival into Bangkok, I rode a tuktuk to the hospital, a 20-minute ride from my hotel on Kao San Road – a very popular spot where solo travelers like me can easily meet up with other like-minded travelers.
As soon as I disembarked from the taxi, I was greeted by two gentlemen who escorted me to the front desk of the hotel. I was asked (by an English speaking Thai lady), “How can we help you?”
I told her I needed some tests done, you know, the ones you do when you’re in your 40’s. She didn’t know what that meant (and didn’t get my dry sense of humor) and escorted me to a nurse who wrote down exactly
what I wanted to have done.
After spouting my “laundry list” of tests, I sat in the waiting room, shared with about 40 other people (this is a big hospital). Instead of watching crazy-ass Thai TV to pass the time, I thought
it would be prudent to watch and observe the Thai people.
The first thing I noticed was no one was on their cell phone. <40 people and no-one on a mobile? Bollocks! – Stick> This was very refreshing because
no matter where you go in America or other western countries, people are always on the cells. By the way, interesting to know: nearly all Thais in Bangkok have cell phones.
I also noticed that the kids weren’t unruly like I see here in America. They would color their coloring books, read, or simply sit patiently and quietly. No temper tantrums, meltdowns or any of the other tactics kids often use
to get attention.
The hospital staff all dressed very professionally. The nurses wore the classic white dress, apron and cap combination – just like you use to see in the good ole days. They were friendly and would make eye contact with me and smile.
After approximately 45 minutes, I was escorted to the doctor’s office where the doctor happened to be American. He told me he’s from California and has been living in Bangkok for three years.
My consultation with Dr. Walters lasted 40 minutes. Shortly after that, my battery of ‘mid-life’ tests was underway. Some of these were: many different blood tests, an EKG and a chest X-ray. Then I walked over the dermatologist’s
office so I could get my yearly skin examination. They took a biopsy on a questionable mole and did laser treatment on several pre-cancers that were on my hands and torso.
When all of my procedures were complete, I was lead back to Dr. Walters’ office by a happy-looking nurse for 20 minutes of discussion, in which the doctor had news that all the tests were normal.
That was it. An exam, as well as lab and medical tests that most people, especially men, never get done is now behind me. After grabbing my antibiotics from the pharmacists, I was well on my way back to the hotel.
While having lunch, I had analyzed a few things about my experience in a “third world” hospital.
1. I didn’t have to make an appointment, and simply showed up at 9am. I didn’t wait several days or weeks to see a general physician, dermatologists, surgeon and heart specialists.
2. This whole process took just four hours — I was out the door by 1pm.
3. Having an in-house pharmacist was a plus, and I have since wondered why more U.S. hospitals don’t have pharmacists.
4. The cost of my entire visit was less than $500. These same tests would have cost at least five times that of the US. Just an example of how affordable healthcare is in Thailand; my chest X-ray was $12.
5. The general physician spent an entire hour talking with me. In the U.S., I’m lucky if my doctor talks with me for 15 minutes.
6. Since healthcare and pharmaceuticals are so inexpensive in Thailand, it encourages people to stay healthy by being current on their health checkups. And all forms of treatments and operations are affordable by most people, even if
they have no insurance.
Medical tourism in Thailand is booming. People from all over the world come to Thailand for its top-of-the-line modern health care and get treated for Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, drug/alcohol addictions,
etc. Thousands every year also come to Thailand for cosmetic surgery, face lifts, tummy tucks, even sex changes.
Thailand’s health care is anywhere from 1/5th to 1/10th the cost of healthcare in the US or Europe, even after the cost for flight and hotel stay.
Private hospitals in Thailand can usually see patients right away, although that doesn't necessarily mean you will see the specialist of your choice arriving without an appointment.
Some of the other stuff you write is, in my experience, all very pie in the sky. 40 odd Thais waiting and not using their mobile? Come on, that's total nonsense! The doctor spent an hour talking to you? Strikes me as highly unlikely.
Some of Thailand's medical care facilities are great and some of the specialists are no doubt excellent. But wait until things go wrong – and from time to time they do – and I bet you'll wish you were back home. There have been horror stories posted online regarding experiences at some of THE BEST hospitals when things didn't go as the patient expected. Medical care in Thailand is great if you're on a budget or in a hurry. But challenge a Thai doctor, ask a lot of questions or ask for a second opinion and see the response…
For me personally, I would only get basic stuff done here – checkups etc. Anything major and I'd be off home. Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep and with a bit of luck doctor visits will be kept to a minimum.
It's great to see you being so positive about healthcare in Thailand but I think you picked the wrong points to be so positive about.