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Pakistan’s Growing Potential in Medical Tourism

August 22, 2023

Pakistan has a long history of medical tourism, or traveling abroad to receive medical care because of the higher cost of healthcare at home.

Pakistan’s underground organ transplant market flourished in the 1980s. However, this only lasted briefly as new laws were passed to curb the spread of illegally procured organs. Since then, Pakistan has become one of the leading contenders in the emerging, high-profit medical tourism sector.

Some of the most important elements in this unexplored market are the relatively low cost of operations, the abundance of trained medical professionals, and the growth of the related medical industry. However, before Pakistan can realize any tangible benefits, it must first several of pressing concerns.

Nearly $38.5 billion will be made in the medical tourism business worldwide by the year 2020. The Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom estimates that 55,000 persons traveled outside of the country for medical care in 2012. They traveled to places like Pakistan, India, Poland, and Hungary in the dozens.

The majority of Pakistani people who travel abroad for medical care are interested in aesthetic or fertility procedures, while only a fraction travel for heart surgery.

The key motivating reason for people to travel to these countries for medical care has been the low cost of care. In the United States, in vitro fertilization procedures can cost up to $8,100; in Pakistan, the same procedure can be performed for $2,000, a savings of 75 percent.

Many more routine operations can also be performed at a low cost. The rising value of the dollar relative to other currencies is a major contributor. The value of the Pakistani rupee has dropped by nearly half against the US dollar since December 2017. Devaluations like these may be bad for the economy as a whole, but they help out foreigners who want to get medical care in Pakistan by reducing their out-of-pocket expenses.

Pakistan’s potential in the medical tourism industry is substantial, but there are also substantial challenges that must be overcome.

Having a wide pool of appropriately educated doctors is crucial to the growth of the field. Doctors practicing in Pakistan have earned a worldwide reputation for excellence. According to the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, Pakistan’s more than 50 medical schools graduate somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 doctors annually even though this is enough to support a flourishing medical tourism business, many Pakistani doctors still leave the country in search of better salaries elsewhere.

According to data compiled by the World Health Organization, other developing countries have twice as many doctors per capita than Pakistan does.

Comparatively, the median annual salary for a physician in a private hospital in the United States is $189,000. For Pakistan’s medical tourism business to take off, its first step will be to convince doctors to stay and set up shop in the country.

Another issue that has prevented medical tourists from visiting Pakistan is the country’s poor security. There are around 15,000 kidnappings every year in Pakistan, with 10%-20% being for ransom. Pakistan’s terrorism death toll has been dropping since 2011, but at over a thousand in 2017, it is still among the highest in the world.

The atmosphere has become increasingly hostile toward Pakistan. As a result, 36 nations, including the US, Australia, and the UK, have issued a “Reconsider Travel” recommendation for Pakistan. For Pakistan’s medical tourism business to flourish, the country must first ensure the security of international patients.

The availability of highly skilled physicians and security assurance are the two most critical impediments and challenges that still need to be overcome.

It’s unclear what the future holds for the medical tourism business now that a new government has taken office in Islamabad and an economic crisis is worsening. Neither the federal government nor any of the provinces have taken action to solve this issue.

in favor of increasing healthcare spending. Pakistan’s potential to become a worldwide medical tourism hotspot has never been higher than now, according to the country’s low treatment prices and unrealized potential.

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