Medical Tourism

Quality Care in Taiwan

written by | Posted on November 1st, 2010

Taiwan has joined the international competition for offshore medical dollars offering a host of low-cost medical services, from cosmetic surgery to knee and hip replacement, as well as liver transplants and coronary artery bypass surgery for savings on average of about 75 percent.

According to Don Gilliland, COO of Formosa Medical Travel, a medical tourism agency owned and operated by Americans that works in facilitating high-quality, low-cost medical care in Taiwan, “Taiwan, while a relatively recent entrant into the field of medical travel, has many advantages when it comes to medical care. The healthcare system here is often praised as one of the best in the world. Taiwan is home to 11 JCI-accredited hospitals, which attests to the quality of medical care here. With world-class doctors (many of which were trained and have experience in the United States, UK, and Canada), cutting-edge medical technology, and some of the world’s finest medical facilities, the quality of care provided in Taiwan is among the best available.”

Indeed, the JCI accreditation is a must for patients seeking medical care offshore and is based on American standards of quality with rigid requirements relating to all aspects of medical care. Interestingly enough, most countries involved in offshore medical service—including Taiwan—often exceed those standards, particularly in terms of patient care and accommodations and state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment equipment.

The big plus, Gilliland says, is the fact that, “Providers in Taiwan put an emphasis on the patient experience. One of the first things that strikes patients upon entering one of Taiwan’s hospitals is the quality of the accommodations. Almost all international patients spend their recuperation time in a hospital’s VIP ward, replete with flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet, personalized dining options, and countless other amenities—both for the patient and their companions. Many people say that the experience in Taiwan’s hospitals is more akin to that of a five-star hotel than a hospital.” Something few patients in U.S. hospitals have the opportunity to experience.

But the biggest advantage to offshore medical services is, of course price. Most patients who utilize these services from North America, do so because their insurance companies are reluctant to cover their required procedures or they don’t have insurance and the pricing of even relatively minor surgical procedures requiring hospitalization are prohibitive for most patients.

“Along with quality of care, price is also a very important factor in the decision to travel abroad for medical care. In this regard, Taiwan is one of the most appealing options in medical travel,” Gilliland explains. “Prices for many major procedures can be as low as 25 percent of the cost in the United States. Just as an example, an uninsured patient in the United States can often expect to pay as much as $60,000 for a procedure such as knee replacement surgery. The all-inclusive price for this procedure in Taiwan is usually less than $15,000.”

So in keeping with the age-old adage of “caveat emptor”—buyer beware—why are surgical procedures such as the aforementioned knee replacement surgery so cheap? According to Formosa Medical Travel, “There is a common misunderstanding about medical care today: that a higher price correlates with higher quality. Many people falsely believe that quality suffers when costs are decreased. In reality, the price of healthcare is affected by a number of factors. These include obvious costs such as those associated with insurance company bureaucracies, wages, and medical malpractice insurance, as well as often-overlooked costs for things like real estate, construction, maintenance, and education. Taiwan’s healthcare system has the lowest administrative costs of any in the world, at less than 2 percent. In addition, many American hospitals have to charge higher rates in order to recoup losses they incur on uninsured patients. All of these costs are eventually passed on to the patient, which is why leaving the United States for medical care has become so popular in recent years.”

But there’s still another advantage that factors into seeking offshore services in Taiwan—particularly in the case of cosmetic surgery—the opportunity for some leisure fun either pre- or post-op or even both in an exotic and beautiful locale with plenty of shopping and excellent dining. “While the first priority of medical travelers should be receiving high-quality medical care at an affordable cost, Taiwan does offer some of the region’s most compelling tourism options,” Gilliland points out. “After all, Taiwan was formerly known as ‘Ilha Formosa,’ which means ‘Beautiful Island.’ From the bustling city of Taipei to the magnificent vistas of Taroko Gorge and the beautiful beaches of Southern Taiwan, there are leisure options for everyone.”