PH Medical Tourism: Top 6 popular health services


Nadj Villaver | |

Why do people travel to another country? Is it just because of the pristine beaches and sceneries? Studies show that some people also travel to seek for specialized and affordable medical treatments and healthcare services. Likewise, developing countries are increasingly offering their skills and facilities to medical tourists.1

In the past decade, there has been a notable increase in medical tourism as people continue their pursuit for specialized care, shorter waiting time, cost savings or adventure.2 Because of this demand, the list of popular medical tourism destinations is getting longer.

The Philippines have joined the said list with its high-quality and cost-effective healthcare services. In fact, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has noted the country’s comparative edge in health and wellness tourism. The various medical breakthroughs and milestones achieved in the past years have made the country one of Asia’s most advanced nations in the field of healthcare. Moreover, leading hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) or certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).3

In the paper published by Philippine Institute for Development Studies, it showed that Philippines is competitive in the medical tourism industry although there are copious challenges that are yet to be addressed. 4 On the survey conducted by in 2011, an international health care platform and interactive medical directory, the Philippines ranked 7th in the top ten popular medical tourist destination. The survey also noted that the country is known for dental care and plastic surgery. Among the procedures that patients seek treatment in country are hip and knee replacements, heart bypass and other cardiac procedures, eye care, stem cell therapy, and cosmetic surgery.

Aesthetic Medicine

“Foreigners are difficult to treat. It depends on their skin type,” shares age-management/anti-aging, aesthetics and skin health expert, Dr. Gisela Trajano-Sarmiento, “But it seems that foreigners have found their haven.”

Maintaining a natural and healthy appearance is a part of a normal health routine for everyone. It is no wonder that most medical tourists seek treatments to keep the skin healthy, younger-looking.

In the Philippines, there are cosmetic and dermatological clinics are located that can perform both non-surgical and surgical aesthetic procedures. Dermatology services are also common among medical tourists who prefer to have their clinical treatments like facial and peeling in the Metro.

When it comes to surgical or minimally invasive procedures, medical tourists choose to undergo their cosmetic plastic surgery procedures in the country such as liposuction, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, face lift, tummy tuck and blepharoplasty at local hospitals and out-patient surgeries.

As cited in Cosmetic Plastic Surgery – Philippines website, there are many qualified and well-trained doctors who have had formal training in plastic and reconstructive surgery, have acquired their postgraduate or fellowship training from well-known institutions in the U.S.A. and have been mentored by leading plastic surgeons.

Dental Services

Dental tourism is also growing popularity in the medical tourism industry. The Philippines is known in the field because of Filipino dentists abroad as well as dental schools that attract a sizeable number of foreign students, especially from the Middle East. Picazo’s study noted that contemporary technologies are well integrated in local dental practice including dental implants, dental cosmetics, orthodontics – braces and dentures – and teeth whitening. Most of the dental clinics are ISO certified, proving that dental services in the country has a high standard.

Eye Surgery & Ophthalmology

Philippine eye clinics cater to multiple refractive errors and their correction (nearsightedness or myopia, farsightedness or hyperopia), regular and irregular astigmatism, and presbyopia. Filipino doctors have gained reputation in Lasik (Laser-assisted in situ keratomilieusis), a bloodless surgical procedure that corrects hyperomia, myopia, and astigmatism. Top-notch clinics also render high-quality clinical procedures such as cataract removal; corneal transplant; PRK surgery; conductive keratoplasty; refractive lensectomy; ocuplastic, orbital, lachrymal and reconstructive surgery; and low-vision rehabilitation.

Diagnostic Services & General Surgery

Some of the best hospitals and stand-alone specialty clinics in the world can be found in the country. These hospitals are offering world-class expertise and state-of-the-art facilities; topped with the distinct warmth of the famous Filipino hospitality.  Among the common surgeries medical tourists sought here in the country are pediatric surgery, appendicectomy, gastrectomy, mastectomy, lumpectomy, hemorrhoidectomy, goiter removal surgery, thyroidectomy, laproscopic surgery, proctology, hernia repair, gallbladder removal surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy treats diseases by introducing new adult stem cells into the damaged tissue of a patient. Five hospitals in the Philippines have respective departments dedicated to stem cell therapy.  Moreover, there are stand-alone clinics and labs involved in stem cell therapy.

According to the article ‘Unlocking the Powers of Cell Therapy from Aesthetics to Cancer Cure’(2013), “stem cell facilities of these five Philippine hospitals use stem cells from the safest known sources, bone marrow and peripheral blood from the patient himself or herself, or from human umbilical cord blood. In cases where the patient cannot use his/her own stem cells (the patient is too you or too old), donor stem cells are harvested usually from siblings, parents, and other close relatives.”

Fertility Treatment

Another healthcare service utilized by medical tourists visiting the country is the fertility or reproductive tourism procedures. Private hospitals are offering the following procedures: in-vitro fertilization, intrauterine insemination, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, artificial insemination, endometriosis, TESE (testicular sperm extraction) and sperm washing.

Having a number of medical procedures preferred by medical tourists, the Philippines is making its way into the Asian medical tourism industry. Nevertheless, the country needs to invest in new technologies to improve the general quality of healthcare services to compete with other medical tourist destinations.

1 Milica Zarkovic Bookman and Karla R Bookman, Medical Tourism In Developing Countries  (New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2007)

2 Stephanie Watson and Kathy Stolley, Medical Tourism: A Reference Handbook (California, 2012)

3 Department of Tourism, Myths on Medical Tourism, 9 Sept. 2015

4 Oscar F. Picazo, Medical Tourism in the Philippines: Market Profile, Benchmarking Exercise, and S.W.O.T. Analysis, (2012)