Westcoast International Dental Clinic is proud to support medical tourism, a growing trend worldwide amongst people who proactively seeking for dental and healthcare services outside of their home countries. In 2013, it was estimated that over 900,000 Americans travelled abroad for medical care purposes, and the number of dental patients accounted for about half of this figure. Overall, the sharp increase in both demand and supply make us all wondering how providers can differentiate themselves to remain competitive and stay long term in the industry.
It’s a growing trend with price sensitive clients, who want good quality dental services but reluctant to pay the ever increasing fees in their home countries. Even with the help of insurance, the remaining cost is still significantly pricey. The situation is much worse for those who lack dental cover.
In general, people tend to overlook dental issues and would spend more for everyday activities as well as leisure purposes, such as housing, clothing, schooling or a trip to overseas, rather than taking good care of their oral health. They would only focus on dental expenses when they finally realize what a major problem it has become.
In more complex cases like having dental implants that involves bone grafting, you may need to visit three specialists at different offices plus pay a separate consultation visit at each clinic. All the hassles in booking a specialist, likely longer waiting period, which also translates to higher fees, more commuting and even longer waiting times to get your problem fixed. Would your insurance cover everything for you? Would you pay out of your pocket or would you turn the other cheek and try to endure the pain?
If you are in pain, and you can’t afford the root canal therapy (fee in Australia is approximately 1200AUD), you not only continue to suffer but also your dental problems will become more severe with time, and more expensive to remedy. Treatments in many western countries are considered expensive for the average budget, and become the main reason for people to look for options outside of their local community. If you, for instance, are in need of a lengthy and complicated dental treatment but only got a small portion of it covered each year, you may delay some necessary work and just focus on spending what the insurance can cover. The downside is, your ‘unnecessary’ problems deteriorate with time but also the planning at the initial stage is compromised; similar to building only a quarter of a house at a time with no long term plan.
Two dental emergencies per year can stress the average household. So what to do in such predicament? You opt for a better solutions, or deals, overseas in the pursuit of getting a “teeth job” done, and may be, a vacation entails with it as well. Getting prompt relief from their dental woes while still able to address all other necessities is another reason for a quick decision to go overseas. In addition, the ability to get all your treatment completed in a shorter time is seen as an advantage to those making dental trips.
The booming of dental tourism in Asia alone might bring about tons of choices of dental clinics to ease your needs. In Southeast Asia, dental tourism countries include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. Although there are no authentic statistics for revenues by country, there are a few indirect gauges of how active the market has become. For example, the number of clinics in Thailand and Singapore serving foreigners visiting on a holiday has grown immensely as indicated on WhatClinic.com. Another measure is Google search pay-per-click results involving “dental tourism Singapore/ Thailand” are now over $2 per click. The trend has also reached Vietnam and is becoming a hot industry, where every dentist fights for his reputation and wants to be sought after by the travelling patient. Integrity is often bent when over-promising and under-delivering.
But it’s not as easy as it appears. We have seen in Thailand that it takes a lot more to be a longstanding competitive player in such an unpredictable industry. Disastrous and detrimental reviews can damage a clinic or dentist permanently. A public relations backlash from organizations, such as American and Australian Dental Associations even documents cases in which dentistry can cause serious health complications, therefore fueling anxiety for any patients thinking of going abroad. Local clinics fighting for fewer patients forcing them to cut costs by lowering their educational or clinic costs that make a race to the bottom faster.
Hence, our prediction for the future is that this dental tourism trend will continue to increase with plenty of clinics offering both high quality service and affordable pricing. However, to remain a competitive player in the market, dental providers have to think more strategically and differentiate through innovation, efficiency, talent and the services offered. The rising tide will cause all boats to rise as well capsize a few strips that fail to meet the long term challenges in this highly competitive industry.