How Medical Tourism could shape Sri Lanka’s Private Hospitals

Despite the commanding presence of regional stalwarts such as India, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea, proponents of medical tourism in Sri Lanka paint an optimistic picture. With over 2 million tourists anticipated in 2016-17, the demand for medical treatment in conjunction with tourism is likely to gain prominence. Heightened patient footfall in private sector hospitals in the recent time presents a compelling case for improvement in infrastructure in coming years. Currently, almost 80% of Sri Lanka’s population utilizes private hospitals for outpatient needs. However with medical tourism providing additional impetus, significant changes in the in-patient infrastructure of private hospitals is anticipated.

Accreditation spree: Multi-specialty hospitals with relevant accreditation are easy to rely on and usually find more takers. Lanka Hospitals recently became the country’s first healthcare provider to receive an international accreditation for medical tourism from Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQA). The 350 bedded hospital already had accreditation from JCI but went ahead with the accreditation process with MTQA – thus highlighting the importance of such accreditation to attract medical tourists.

Focus on niche procedures: With a large proportion of medical tourists being represented by the >65 year old segment, hospitals in Sri Lanka are likely to focus on niche surgical procedures. Hospitals such as Asiri and Lanka have been focusing on creating centers of excellence for bariatric surgery and cochlear implant surgeries in the region. On similar lines, the pursuit of excellence in hip and knee arthroplasty is likely to continue. Nawaloka Hospitals opened its first full fledged regional hospital in Negombo over a year back to be positioned as a medical tourism destination

Public private partnerships: Private hospitals in Sri Lanka may eventually look to involve the public sector in improving their credibility and access to medical tourists. Regional leaders in medical tourism have been looking to involve their respective health ministry departments to leverage tangible benefits. Malaysia’s Ministry of Health had created the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) in 2009 which continues to effectively liaise with private hospitals to promote medical tourism locally as well as abroad. This includes utilization of lounges at international airports as well as overseas representative offices to support promotional activities. Furthermore, an agreement with Malaysian Airlines has been signed to propagate joint marketing activities and position Malaysia as an international medical tourism hub.

While the race to attract medical tourists intensifies, Sri Lanka’s systemic challenges including lack of specialists and limited access to comprehensive health insurance schemes would continue to act as hedgerows. Even as the climb remains steep and competition aplenty, Sri Lanka’s hospitals are likely to be motivated to attract high net worth tourists while drawing significant foreign exchange for the nation.


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