Bangkok's Bumrungrad Hospital: Expanding the Footprint of Offshore Health Care

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Bangkok's Bumrungrad Hospital: Expanding the Footprint of Offshore Health Care

It's been called the Mecca of medical tourism. For the past 10 years, Thailand's Bumrungrad International Hospital has been wooing patients from Boston to Bahrain with a combination of lower-cost, state-of-the-art medical care along with service worthy of a five-star hotel. In what seems far from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Bangkok, more than one million patients, including some 40% from over 190 countries, visit every year for treatment at Bumrungrad's high-tech, upscale facilities.

Patients certainly seem sold on the idea. Having become Southeast Asia's largest private hospital since opening its doors in 1980, the Thai stock exchange-listed company (with annual revenues of around $260 million) can't keep up with demand. Indeed, one of Bumrungrad's biggest challenges today is increasing capacity without decreasing quality. Plans are now under way to ramp up inpatient admission rates by as much as 30% over the next few years and double capacity for outpatients, while also expanding partnerships elsewhere in Asia.

But is this what will help offshore medical care go mainstream and gain the acceptance of national policy makers, major insurers and employers? As the U.S. and other wealthy countries grapple with escalating health care costs, it's a question that needs an answer sooner rather than later, says Mack Banner, CEO of Bumrungrad.

He believes the long-term signs are "positive" that this will happen, as long as hospitals like Bumrungrad keep the bar high with the same, if not better, standards of care and service found at U.S. and European hospitals. Joined by Kenneth Mays, the hospital's director of marketing, Banner recently met with Ravi Aron, a senior fellow with the William and Phyllis Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton, to discuss what this and other recent trends mean for the future of global health care.

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