Korea saw its first dip in foreign patients in 2017 since it started to accumulate the number of international patients in 2009, a report by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) has shown.
According to the report, the total number of foreign patients who visited Korea for treatment was 321,574 in 2017, down 11.7 percent from the previous year. Until then, Korea had registered the increase of 23.2 percent on average.
The KHIDI also reported that the medical spending of foreign patients also decreased to 639.9 billion won ($569.7 million), a 25.6 percent decrease from 2016. The average medical cost of a foreign patient stood at 1.9 million won.
However, the number of countries from which patients visited Korea treatment increased from 186 to 190 over the cited period.
Among the patients that visited, Chinese ranked first with 31 percent, followed by Americans (13.8 percent), Japanese (8.5 percent), Russians (7.7 percent) and Mongols (4.3 percent).
Compared with 2016, however, the country saw patients from China, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, and Vietnam significantly fell ranging from 14.9 to 21.8 percent, while seeing an increase in patients from Japan and Thailand.
The agency noted that the political factor such as the dispute over the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) played a factor in the drop of Chinese visitors.
As to the department international patients visited, internal medicine ranked first with 20.2 percent, followed by plastic surgery (12.3 percent), dermatology (10.9 percent) and health checkup (9.8 percent). The data showed that foreign patients least visited the department of otorhinolaryngology. Except for the department of oriental medicine, Chinese patients ranked in the number of visits for every department.
Female foreign patients accounted for 62.9 percent of the total medical tourists with the other 37.1 being men.
The report showed that foreign patients still favored neighborhood clinics with a whopping 29.6 percent visiting such institutions. Major general hospitals ranked second with 26.6 percent.
As of 2017, Seoul had the most hospitals certified by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, under its Korean Accreditation Program for Hospitals Serving Foreign Patients (KAHF), with 974 hospitals, followed by Gyeonggi Province (158) and Busan (156).
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