Overseas Medical Tourism: New Chinese travel trend

Driven by an increasingly aging population, more and more Chinese are now factoring healthcare into their outbound investment strategies. By 2020, over 800,000 Chinese are expected to head overseas for medical and healthcare treatments.

Reasons for this trend

With the healthcare system already being overburdened, affluent Chinese patients see ‘brighter’ hope overseas. In addition, some do find it simply too risky or less efficient to undertake medical procedures in the country. Furthermore, certain medical services may not be available at all or a particular treatment is offered in limited hospitals found overseas only. Chinese people took an estimated 500,000 outbound medical trips last year, a fivefold increase from a year earlier, according to Ctrip.com International, a Chinese travel booking company, which offers medical travel on its website. While the bulk of that is focused on plastic surgery and routine examinations, medical travel agencies say the number of critically ill Chinese patients leaving the country for medical treatment is growing.

Middlemen for a 360 grades help

While some medical tourists are comfortable managing the whole process from beginning to completion, there has been a growing demand for ‘agents’ acting as middlemen for those willing to pay for such a service.

Two such companies in Beijing are Hope Noah Company and Saint Lucia company, which provide an all-in-one service that includes booking of medical appointments, translating of medical records, applying for visas, arranging for airport pick-up, providing accommodation and accompanying the patient during clinic visits.

Top countries favored by Chinese medical tourists

Distance would not be an issue for cash-rich patients, as they can travel to anywhere as long as they get the best possible medical treatment

  • United States
    With four hospitals ranking in the top ten facilities in the world3, combined with extensive travel links between China and US cities, and recent visa policy changes to quicken visa application processes4, it’s no surprise why the US dominates as one of the most popular destinations for Chinese seeking medical treatment abroad.
  • Japan
    At just a mere 2-3 hours away by plane and offering increasingly liberalized visas for Chinese visitors, Japan is a highly-accessible and popular medical tourism destination for Chinese, especially for standard health checks.5 Japan invests heavily in its health system6, hence its health system is not only one of the world’s best equipped and most cost-effective7, but also one of the most fastidious and reliable ones. This makes Japan highly attractive to Chinese patients – many who are jaded with China’s tenuous medical offerings – which explains the 310,00 Chinese medical tourists expected to visit Japan by 2020
  • Germany
    Boasting first-rate medical facilities, such as the Asklepios Klinik in Hamburg, Germany is ranked as the fifth-best medical system in the world by the US-based Commonwealth Foundation. Germany is also home to the second-best medical facilities in the world, as voted by Medical Tourism Index9, and this largely due to the fact that the German government is the second-largest investor in healthcare among the countries in the OECD.10
  • United Kingdom

Ranked top out of 11 of the world’s wealthiest countries in a study by the US-based Commonwealth Foundation11, the UK healthcare system is a huge draw for Chinese medical tourists, particularly for those in search for liver transplants.5 Besides that, its quality of care, efficiency, and low cost at the point of service are also other factors attracting Chinese medical tourists to UK – now even more so with the pound’s depreciation post-Brexit.

How to make yourself known to potential Chinese customers?

Do you have a medical company with treatments and/or solutions that the Chinese people would like? Here’s what you need to know to get more bookings for your business

The Chinese web population

With a population of nearly 1.5 billion (according to UN 2018 data, 1.4 billion), China is the country with the largest number of users connected worldwide: 751 million.When you think about selling in China you have to think about doing it in a country that is as big as a continent. In which numerics are more important, as evidenced by the fact that the most used Social Network, WeChat, alone collects 1 billion Chinese users. To enter the market, it must be kept in mind that in the first place the pool of potential consumers is almost one and a half billion. And that, above all, to reach them you need to do it with the right digital platforms.

Social Media are an all-day activity for Chinese

WeChat offers companies the possibility to open official accounts (WeChat OA), thanks to which it is possible to interact with their followers by providing a “one-to-one” service by sending direct messages, news, and promotions. This type of account allows you to create mini-business sites directly on the platform through which to offer different services.

With more than 360 million monthly active users, Weibo is among the largest social media in China. The first step to start using Weibo is to open an official account and get the verification of your page. The verification, which is shown as a “V” next to your name, serves to prove that your account information has been verified and confirmed by Weibo. In fact, it may happen to find fake pages of famous people or companies. The verification is therefore essential on the one hand to create confidence in Chinese users, on the other to be able to customize the profile page and get advanced insights on the audience.

Search Engines help your visibility

But Social Media are not the only channels in which the Western numerics are losing weight: even when the attention is focused on search engines, the situation changes. Google, for example, attracts just 1.7% of web queries: 70% of these occur on Baidu, the most used Chinese engine. Furthermore, the domain and contents of the site also influence the indexing of the Baidu website. Regarding the first, suffice it to say that the ideal dominion is Chinese – or Hong Kong. And that the contents should be translated and readjusted to the Chinese user, both textually and graphically

Key Opinion Leaders are a must in China

Key opinion leaders, on the other hand, speak to a particular demographic. Their audience values the KOL’s opinion due to their expertise and experience in a certain industry. Followers turn to them for knowledge and advice and usually have a deeper understanding and knowledge of an industry themselves. Followers respect KOL’s expertise.

If you have a project on your mind and want to break the Chinese market, contact GMA.

We are leaders in digital marketing in every Chinese sector.

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  1. Hi there,
    We are Pakistan based company that deals in the creative business and works for the brand. I want to explore the business opportunity in China for my health company. How can I seize the business opportunities from there? Any possibility?

    Khalid Rasheed
    (Kontent Head)

  2. Hello, i am interested in developing my medical business and receiving more Chinese clients. We specialise in Stem Cell regenerative medicine
    Look forward to hearing from you and what you do to help? Best Regards

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