Plan aims to buoy medical tourism

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Plan aims to buoy medical tourism

The government on Sunday proposed a plan that aims to encourage more medical tourists to seek treatment in Korea, which includes offering multi-lingual support to patients involved in medical disputes and those needing general consultations.

The government hopes the proposal will increase foreign patients’ satisfaction with medical services here.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plan aspires to attract 300,000 foreign patients to the country by increasing transparency in Korea’s medical services industry and reinvigorating a recently slumping medical market for foreign patients.

“I look forward to increasing foreign patients’ satisfaction with Korea’s medical services and hope it increases room for more projects in the future,” the new health minister, Chung Chin-youb, said regarding the move.

The proposal responds to criticism that the measures and mechanisms to help foreign patients involved in medical disputes in the country are inadequate, as well as the argument that information on treatments and procedures are generally difficult to access.

The proposal suggests operating and publicizing a website that provides consultation and support for foreign patients regarding any difficulties they may face in Korea, such as compensation in the case of a medical accident or disputes over treatment fees.

The “Medical Korea” portal will offer services in five foreign languages and include information on obtaining insurance ahead of a procedure, the treatment process, medical dispute mediation and compensation for damages. The site is currently on a trial run this year and will officially launch next year. Medical Korea also operates a hotline Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The plan has been backed by related government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice; Foreign Affairs; Culture, Sports and Tourism; Trade, Industry and Energy; and Strategy and Finance.

The government also vowed to crack down on illegal brokers that partner with medical clinics.

The number of foreign patients in Korea doubled from 60,201 in 2009 to 122,297 in 2011. Since then, it has continued to increase, with 159,464 patients in 2012, 211,218 patients in 2013 and 266,201 patients in 2014.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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