Health Tourism in Thailand

A few years ago I decided to get a health check in Thailand. Although it’s quickly getting more expensive, the  outstanding hospitals and dental clinics and the options for comprehensive health checks and coronary checks that I write about here make it worth considering Thailand as a health tourism destination.
As somebody who lives in Asia, I’m lucky to be close to places where “Health Tourism” is an option. Here in Japan, although you may be lucky and find a good doctor, even getting a prescription refilled will take an entire morning or afternoon. If you go to a larger health center for anything at all, you can expect to wait in a sea of people for 3 hours before seeing your doctor. And your time with a doctor will likely be just the 30 seconds he needs to tell you to go pick up your medicines — most of which you probably don’t even need — from the counter. So after turning 40, my first choice of places to get a comprehensive health check was not Japan.Enter Thailand. I’d been to Bumrungrad Hospital before for food poisoning and was surprise to find it was as nice as any high class hotel. It has restaurants, Starbucks and other services downstairs, and the hospital itself is clean and new. The doctors all speak at least two languages, and they have interpreters for most other languages available for free.I chose the full-Monty: The comprehensive health check for men, at about US$350. You pay your bill up front, then you move from room to room following the cute nurses who lead you around. The rooms go from Room A, where you get the standard blood pressure check and so on, to Room G, where I met with a doctor for a lengthy consultation.You get blood drawn, X-rayed, a complete look-over from a doctor to make sure you have 10 fingers and 10 toes, you pee in a cup and poop on a scoop (don’t get the scoop mixed up with your Haagen Daz scoop), you jog on a treadmill for up to 12 minutes, and then you have hot jelly rubbed on your back and tummy as they do a complete ultrasound to check your internal organs (check for kidney stones, liver size, prostate size, etc).

The next day you meet with a doctor to get your results. In my case, I had only one abnormal result: He said there was a problem with my heart response when I first broke into a jog. He said it was either just a problem with the test, OR I had a serious oxygen deficiency to my heart as a result of a blocked coronary artery. Hmm…

To clarify the problem, the doctor asked me to have a coronary CT scan done. This is where you get filled with radioactive contrast dye, and they stick you in a huge donut shaped machine that twirls around like the portal from the movie Stargate. The results were good. Zero blockage or narrowing of the arteries, and no calcification (*pats himself on back for having never smoked cigs*).

The cost for the CT scan? $625. Expensive? Yes. Necessary? I’m not sure. Worth the peace of mind? Absolutely! And the best part of all this: They give you all of your results in a nicely printed form, and all the CT scan data on a CD ROM. So unlike Japan, where the doctors prefer not to give out too much information, in Bumrungrad they give you results that are so comprehensive, you can take them to any doctor in the world as a complete medical history.

And now I give you my heart….

My impure, but healthy heart…

That’s definitely worth the price!

Wow! Bloomberg called and wanted more info after reading this blog. See, a blog does get your message out there! OK, they got some of the information wrong…the basic checkup was only $350 — it was the heart scan that cost so much more. But anyway, here’s a link to the bloomberg article.