Health travel in China has been rising in popularity for the last years. Nevertheless, there are a few details you need to learn about the Chinese people to understand why they travel abroad seeking medical assistance.
One factor is the infrastructure – the Chinese are perfectly capable of building up a completely new and functional hospital from the ground in only ten days. It happened between 24 January and 4 February 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province. The emergency caused by Covid-19 motivated more than 20,000 doctors and nurses to travel to Wuhan from other places in China to offer help and expertise. The challenge is that well-trained and qualified medical professionals do not grow from the ground, like that hospital. It takes years for a doctor to get the license to practice and master the necessary skills. The latest number in 2019 showed there were 2.77 licensed doctors per 1,000 people in China, versus over 1,000 new hospitals built in a year. There is a gap between the number of new hospitals and the equivalent number of medical professionals. Therefore, when people can travel and afford to use healthcare services overseas, they tend to do so.
Another key factor is advanced technology. Herewith, it means state-of-the-art medical testing, diagnostics, and treatments, including scientific research, clinical trials, equipment, devices, and related health care expertise. For example, BNCT (which stands for Boron Neutron Capture Therapy) was approved and used in cancer treatment in March 2020 in Japan. It is a new treatment, while proton therapy has been popular in China since 2015 when the first proton center opened in Shanghai and spread across China. Financially speaking, BNCT costs only 1/3 to 1/5 of the proton therapy for a hospital. The China Academy of Sciences had successfully developed a BNCT experimental device and accepted it in August 2020. It is now going through clinical trials at a local hospital in Dongguan, and then it will pass the medical device registration approval. Afterwards, it can be legally used in clinical treatment nationwide. Meanwhile, professionals are working on breakthroughs in boron medicine.
In short words, Chinese patients would go abroad for treatment when they trust advanced technologies overseas. More and more Chinese people pay attention to keep a state of wellbeing before they get sick, especially to those places where they can combine a nice vacation time and use of health-related services.
Written by Amy Wang, Managing Director, Beijing Maxigen Health Consulting, China, and HTI Representative for China