Turkey is one of the most preferred countries in health tourism with its highly qualified medical staff, fast and effective health care services, world-class technological and medical equipment, affordable price advantage, thermal underground resources as well as traditional Turkish hospitality, according to an expert.
"Turkey has achieved great success in the field of health in the last 20 years,” Prof. Murat Dizbay, deputy chief physician and international health office manager at Gazi University Hospital in the capital Ankara, told Anadolu Agency on the occasion of Public Health Week celebrated every year between Sept. 3-9 in Turkey.
“Turkey, which has been closely following the recent technological innovations around the globe, has become a leader in its region with its specialized health professionals,” Dizbay said.
Patients from many countries across the world as well as neighboring countries visit Turkey to receive treatment, he noted, adding Turkish institutions, both in the private sector and in the public sector (university and state hospitals), have achieved significant successes in the field of medicine.
Today, there is annual traffic of 30 million people who go out of their countries as part of health tourism in order to receive quality health services with more affordable prices and shorter waiting times. Health tourism expenditures in the world are expressed with nearly $500 billion, International Health Services Inc. (USHAS), an institution of the Turkish Health Ministry, said on its official website.
Turkey’s target for 2023 in health tourism is to reach 1.5 million health tourists and $10 billion in health tourism income, according to USHAS.
- Fast and effective health care services
In recent years, Turkey has risen to the top among the most preferred countries in the world with its rapidly developing health tourism potential.
Underlining that Turkey has a deep-rooted history in providing health services, Dizbay said spa and thermal facilities in the country have been attracting people from all around the world for thousands of years.
“Good results are achieved when the high-quality health service delivery is combined with friendliness and hospitality,” Dizbay noted.
The fact that international patients are offered shorter waiting times for diagnosis and treatment while receiving health care services is also an important factor that makes Turkey a leading country in the health sector, he stressed.
The rapid transfer of the latest technology used in the world to the country and affordable price advantage compared to developed countries make Turkey a center of attraction for health tourism, he said.
Dizbay added that the natural and historical beauty of the country also offers patients who visit the country for treatment the opportunity to have a holiday.
- Impact of COVID-19 on health tourism in Turkey
The coronavirus pandemic has caused serious problems in the health sector in Turkey as well as all over the world, Dizbay said.
He noted that there was a significant decrease in the number of international patients after flights from countries whose citizens frequently visit Turkey were canceled during the full lockdown periods.
The increase in the burden of Turkish hospitals and the overwork of health workers during the pandemic period have also negatively affected health tourism in the country, he said.
Dizbay, however, underlined that Turkey has managed the recent crisis successfully thanks to its strong health system.
This success has also attracted the attention of patients and health care providers in other countries and led to a rapid increase in the number of patients visiting the country, according to Dizbay.
He said he expects the increasing trend in the number of patients coming from abroad will continue in the future.
The interest and investment of Turkey’s national government in health tourism is very high, he said, adding that in recent years, an increase has been observed also in the promotion of activities related to health tourism at the national and institutional level.
- Health Tourism Data
In 2002, the share of health expenditures in tourism revenues of Turkey was 1%. However, this rate increased to 4.5% in 2020, according to data from USHAS.
In 2019, 662,087 patients received health services as part of health tourism. The amount of tourism income from foreign visitors and citizens residing abroad visiting for health tourism and medical reasons was more than $1.06 billion.
In 2020, 388,150 patients preferred Turkey to receive health services as the global coronavirus pandemic caused a remarkable decrease in the number of health tourists. The amount of tourism income decreased to around $549 million.
In the first quarter of 2021, 110,716 people received health services, and the amount of income obtained was more than $196.73 million.
The most preferred clinical branches by international patients are respectively gynecology, internal diseases, ophthalmology, medical biochemistry, general surgery, dentistry, orthopedics and traumatology, infectious diseases, and otorhinolaryngology.
USHAS was established in 2019 with its headquarters in Ankara to promote the services offered in the field of international health services in Turkey to support and coordinate the activities of public and private sectors towards health tourism.