Title: Service quality as a key driver of medical tourism: the case of Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand

Authors: Ruamsak Veerasoontorn, Rian Beise-Zee, Apichati Sivayathorn

Addresses: School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand. ' School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand. ' Bumrungrad International Hospital, 33 Sukhumvit 3 (Soi Nana Nua), Wattana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Abstract: An emerging trend in medical tourism is the flow of patients from developed countries seeking treatment in developing nations. Medical tourism seemingly acts as a valve for capacity limitations and cost escalation at home. In contrast to the prevailing view that developing countries mainly offer a price advantage, we argue that the underlying success factor for the sustainable competitiveness of a healthcare destination is neither price nor medical quality, but patient-centred, highly personalised service quality. This conclusion is based on a comprehensive narrative analysis of the lived experiences of patients from developed countries who receive invasive medical procedures at one of the largest private hospitals in Thailand, which has been described as emblematic for the trend of internationalisation of healthcare and a model that many other hospitals in Asia follow. We find that, while a low price might initiate interest in medical treatment abroad, return visits are built on profound patient satisfaction, and even bonding, to doctors and nurses. Successful health destinations need to provide foreign patients unexpectedly pleasant experiences through organisational innovations and service quality based on superior patient–doctor–nurse relationship.

Keywords: medical tourism; international patients; service quality; healthcare innovation; Thailand; developing countries; patient-centred services; personalised services; medical services; medical tourists; healthcare internationalisation; patient satisfaction; foreign patients.

DOI: 10.1504/IJLTM.2011.038886

International Journal of Leisure and Tourism Marketing, 2011 Vol.2 No.2, pp.140 - 158

Published online: 05 Mar 2011 *

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