Baidu’s Scandal on Medical Tourism
2016 was not a good year for Baidu, online search engine leader in China. Its paid keyword bidding business unfairly promoted hospitals that had used outdated cancer treatments, leading to the death of a 27-year-old young man. A complete story is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Wei_Zexi
This scandal has again put the medical service industry and hospitals in China under spotlight. Chinese citizens have become increasingly skeptical of the received medical treatment and abundant options available oversea. In an aging society with limited medical resources available only in big cities, the go-abroad examination has become a common and affordable option for many Chinese.
According to a survey undertook by Ipsos on Medical Tourism in 24 countries, 7 out of 10 Chinese people among the respondents stated they would search for medical treatments oversea. In Desperate Chinese Seek Medical Care aboard, a WSJ article, some key highlights:
“Every year 3.09 million new cancer cases are found in China, and 1.96 million deaths are caused by cancer, according to the latest statistics released by the national cancer prevention center. Increasingly, Chinese patients are traveling abroad to treat life-threatening diseases, according to accounts from U.S. hospitals and businesses that help find treatment overseas.
The Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., said the number of its patients from China has more than doubled over the past year. It now has a Web page in Chinese and has put interpreters on staff.”
What Does It Mean For US Medical Service Providers?
Opportunity to Expand Globally:
US hospitals could expand in China, a country facing numerous health and social-related issues: pollution, an aging society, and limited medical resource all in this highly demand, aging market.
While majority of Chinese think US hospitals are superior in terms of providing medical/treatment technology, many don’t know which hospitals to go to for a particular treatment such as cancer or leukemia. Therefore, it’s very important to let them be aware of the hospital, its history, the doctors, and cases that have been successfully conducted.
Patients for Clinic Trials:
In certain practice such as cancer treatment, US is leading the world in delivering breakthrough treatment or employing advanced technologies such as proton cancer therapy. These treatments are not readily available in China.
In certain clinic trials, US hospitals/drug developer could tap into the China market for patients needed for clinical trials. Typically, Chinese patients are willing to receive treatment/drugs under clinic trials when all other hopes are lost.
Boost Local Economy:
Medical tourism is not an isolated service. Patients are coming to US hospitals abroad. Treatments could often take months, during which period patients and their relatives need to live in the US. They need a place to live, car for transportation, translation, and various other needs.
Therefore, local service providers could work with hospitals to provide a comprehensive service care for families starting from picking up patients at hotels, to fulfilling their daily needs. These services would boost the local economy and especially economy from neighborhoods closet to hospitals.