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Attracting 380K in 2018, Korea Drawing 2.26M Foreign Patients in 10 Years

  • Date : 2019-04-23
  • Hit : 1652

Attracting 380K in 2018, Korea Drawing 2.26M Foreign Patients in 10 Years

*Foreign patients: a patient of a foreign nationality who does not reside in (nor register as a foreigner or report a residence in) the Republic of Korea, and does not receive treatment as the insured or their dependents of the National Health Insurance.

□ The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW, Minister Neunghoo Park) announced that the number of international patients who visited Korea for treatment recorded 378,967 in 2018, a 17.8% increase from 321,574 in 2017.

○ Korea has attracted 2.26 million foreign patients and hit the 2 million mark in 10 years, since the attraction of international patients was allowed in 2009.

1. Attraction of International Patients in 2018

□ Once temporarily decreased in 2017*, the number of foreign patients coming to Korea for treatment exceeded that of 2016 and recorded an all-time high, since the attraction of international patients was allowed in 2009.

* 364,189 in 2016 to 321,574 in 2017 (an 11.7% rise) to 378,967 in 2018 (an 17.8% increase)

□ (By nationality) In 2018 alone, foreign patients from 190 countries visited Korea for treatment. Chinese patients accounted for the largest share, followed by patients from the United States, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia.

○ The number of patients visiting Korea rose in most countries, and significantly increased in Japan, Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Indonesia, and Uzbekistan. However, the share of patients from the Middle East such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declined 4.8% year-on-year.

○ (China & Japan) A total of 118,310 Chinese patients visited Korea in 2018. This figure is an 18.5% increase from the previous year, bouncing back to the level before 2017 when the THADD deployment had an impact on the attraction of foreign patients. In fact, the number stood at 127,648 in 2016.

- The share of Japanese patients remarkably increased from 27,283 in 2017 to 42,563 in 2018, showing the biggest rise of56%.

○ (Southeast Asia) The number of patients from Thailand and Indonesia surged 46.6% (6,137 to 8,998) and 37.1% (2,385 to 3,270), respectively, seemingly thanks to the popularity of the Korean Wave in the region.

○ (Russia & Central Asia) The number of patients from Uzbekistan and Russia increased 20.4% (3,253 to 3,915) and 9.4% (24,859 to 27,185), respectively, compared to 2017. Internal medicine* and check-up centers were the main purpose of their visits.

* (Internal medicine) 11 internal medicine departments including nephrology, hemato-oncology, endocrinology and metabolism, rheumatology, cardiology, respiratory, allergy and clinical immunology, and gastroenterology

○ (Middle East) The number of Middle Eastern patients slightly decreased from 7,238 to 6,888 (a 4.8% decline), and this trend prevailed in UAE patients with a 10.3% decrease year-on-year.

□ (By department) Internal medicine made up the largest share of 19.4% with around 90,000 patients, followed by plastic surgery (14.4%), dermatology (13.7%), check-up centers (8.9%), and obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GY) (5.3%), showing a similar pattern with that of 2017.

○ Dermatology recorded the largest increase of 47%, followed by plastic surgery (37.1%), OB/GY (21.5%), general surgery (14%), internal medicine (11.8%), Korean traditional medicine (8.5%), while dentistry (6.2%) and ophthalmology (4.1%) slightly decreased compared to the previous year.

□ (By type of medical institutions) Clinics attracted the largest number of foreign patients with 37.5%, followed by general hospitals (25%), tertiary hospitals (21.3%), and hospitals (10.2%).

○ The share of clinics and hospitals saw a 7.2%p rise (40.5% to 47.7%), while tertiary hospitals and general hospitals lost 6.1%p of the share (52.4% to 46.3%).

□ (By region) Seoul attracted the biggest number of 245,000 international patients (64.8%), followed by Gyeonggi-do (12.2%), Incheon and Daegu (4.7% each), and Busan (4%).

○ Non-Seoul Metropolitan Areas including Jeollanam-do, Gwangju, Chungchengnam-do, Ulsan, Jeju-do, and Gwangwon-do also saw significant increases in the number of foreign patients thanks to considerable efforts to attract international patients.

2. Changes over the Last 10 Years

□ Since the attraction of foreign patients was allowed in 2009, there have been the following changes including the scope of the attraction and the number of countries of which people visited Korea for treatment.

○ (Achievement) Started at 60,000 in 2009, the number of foreign patients visiting Korea has recorded a high growth rate of 22.7% annually, reaching 1 million in 2015. In the next 3 years, Korea hit the 2 million mark in 2018.

○ (Countries) Initially stood at 139 in 2009, the number of countries of which citizens visited Korea for treatment increased to 190 in 2018, a 37% increase. In particular, the number of countries of which more than 100 people came to Korea for treatment every year rose from 27 in 2009 to 69 in 2018, a 155.6% surge.

- In 2009, the United States (23.2%) and Japan (21.6%) accounted for around half of the total international patients, but the figures declined to 11.9% and 11.2% in 2018, respectively.

- On the other hand, the share of Chinese patients rose from 7.8% in 2009 to 31.2% in 2018, accounting for the largest part of the total foreign patients visiting Korea.

- In addition, the shares of Russia, Mongolia, Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and Thailand increased.

○ (Non-Seoul Metropolitan Areas) Started at 12.2% in 2009, the share of non-Seoul Metropolitan Areas, which exclude Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi-do, increased to 18.3% in 2018 with a 6.1%p rise, backed by considerable efforts to attract foreign patients in the region.

*The share of 5 Metropolitan Cities & Provinces (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon, and Gyeonggi-do): 96.5% in 2009 to 90.4% in 2018

3. Progress in the Implementation of Key Policy and Institutions

□ The MOHW has led the effort to attract international patients through quality management on medical institutions serving foreign patients and laying out the institutional foundation to stabilize the market for the attraction of foreign patients.

○ (Institutions & Policy) The MOHW improved the rights and safety of international patients through the introduction of mandatory registration of medical institutions serving foreign patients and compulsory medical malpractice liability insurance. At the same time, the Ministry strengthened the management on those institutions so that patients abroad can place their trust in and visit Korean medical institutions.

- To be specific, along with the introduction of the mandatory registration policy, training to nurture global healthcare professionals was provided in 2009. In order to protect foreign patients, the MOHW opened the Illegal Broker Report Center in 2014.

- In addition, the renewal of the registration for every three years was introduced, along with the compulsory medical malpractice liability insurance in 2016. The Act on Support for Overseas Expansion of Healthcare System and Attraction of International Patients was enacted and took into effect.

- Furthermore, the Korean Accreditation Program for Serving Foreign Patients was in place, and the Public Notice on the Ceilings of the Commission Rate for the Attraction of Foreign Patients was revised in 2017.

○ (Promotion of Korean medicine and support for patients) The MOHW promoted the excellence of Korean medicine and created a foreign patient-friendly environment.

- To this end, the MOHW has hosted the “Medical Korea Conference” every year since 2010, with the opening of “Medical Korea Information Center” in Myeong-dong, Seoul in 2016. The policy of the Cosmetic Surgery V.A.T Refund was introduced in the same year.

- On the other hand, the Pre-Post Care Center and Cooperation Center were established in Mongolia and China in 2018, respectively. The “Medical Tourism Support Center” was open at the Incheon International Airport in the same year.

○ (Training for foreign medical professionals) Stable channels for attracting foreign patients have been secured through training programs for foreign medical professionals in Korea, which demonstrates the excellence of Korean medicine to the world.

- The Medical Korea Academy has been implemented since 2017. The Korean Medical Training Program for Doctors from Mongolia was implemented in 2012 under the Korea-Mongolia Seoul Project. Training for Russian doctors was in place in 2013 in accordance with the Korea-Russia Healthcare Cooperation Training Project.

- Paid training for Saudi doctors and dentists was implemented in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The Korean Hospital Management Training Program for hospital officials from Qatar was put in place in 2018.

□ Hyeseon Kim, Director General for Global Healthcare of the MOHW, asserted that “while maintaining stable channels with the existing countries of which people visited Korea for treatment, the MOHW will push for the attraction of international patients through enhancing healthcare cooperation with countries of the New Southern and New Northern Policies to expand the market for attracting foreign patients to Southeast Asian countries and Central Asian nations”, and

- “At the same time, the MOHW will explore the market for overseas expansion of Korean medicine including medical services, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices in line with the effort to attract foreign patients.”

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