China’s Ill, in addition to Wealthy, Look Abroad for Medical Treatment

Western hospitals in addition to a brand-new group of well-connected companies are reaching for well-heeled Chinese patients who need lifesaving treatments unavailable at home. The trend is usually a twist on the perception of medical tourism as a way to save money, often on noncritical procedures like dental work in addition to face-lifts. For these customers, getting out of China is usually a matter of life or death.

Medical care is usually just one manifestation of China’s wide wealth disparity. A brand-new generation of affluent Chinese can seek help at private hospitals or go abroad, even as the rest endure long waits in addition to find their treatment falling short.

Chinese people took an estimated 500,000 outbound medical trips last year, a fivefold increase coming from a year earlier, according to International, a Chinese travel booking company, which offers medical travel on its website. While the bulk of of which is usually focused on plastic surgery in addition to routine examinations, medical travel agencies say the number of critically ill Chinese patients leaving the country for medical treatment is usually growing.

“China is usually among the countries where we have seen the greatest growth in recent years,” Dr. Stephanie L. Hines, the chairwoman of executive health in addition to international medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said in an email.

At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, employees help patients with travel in addition to lodging. Mass General, Mayo Clinic in addition to Boston Children’s Hospital provide interpreters.


Guo Shushi, a Chinese citizen who sought medical treatment inside the United States for cancer, at an apartment in Boston, where he has been staying during his treatment.

Tony Luong for The brand-new York Times

Mr. Guo is usually one of more than 1,000 patients of which one company based in Beijing, trust Noah Health Company, says the item helped last year — a number the item says was double of which of the year before. Upon arriving inside the United States or Japan, the two countries to which trust Noah sends people, patients are greeted at the airports by trust Noah employees in addition to whisked off to a rented apartment. When they head to the hospital, a trust Noah translator is usually by their side.

As recently as the 1970s, China’s health care system provided cradle-to-grave medical support. although despite a huge health care reform plan, its public hospitals are overburdened, with too few beds in addition to doctors to deliver the kind of care of which many inside the West take for granted. A 2015 study by The Lancet based on United Nations criteria found of which China ranked 92 out of 188 countries, after Cuba in addition to Mexico.

The government has increased spending in addition to encouraged private investors to address the problem. A total of about 4.3 million cancer cases were diagnosed in China in 2015, or almost 12,000 cases a day, compared with 2.4 million in 2010, according to the state-run news media. The all 5-year survival rate of Chinese cancer patients is usually around 30 percent, compared with about 70 percent inside the United States, according to China’s National Cancer Prevention in addition to Research Center.

Patients often have to travel to Hong Kong in addition to Macau — regions of China governed by their own laws — to buy foreign drugs, which on the mainland face an approval process of which takes three to all 5 years. The drug of which Mr. Guo is usually using, Keytruda, was approved for use only last year in a medical tourism pilot zone inside the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

In top public hospitals inside the top-tier Chinese cities, lines begin forming just after midnight. Appointments for the best doctors are snapped up before dawn. For those who can afford the item, tickets can be bought coming from scalpers hawking appointment numbers. In March, the authorities in Beijing said of which they could bar public hospitals coming from imposing consultation fees on patients, in a bid to reduce public discontent.

By contrast, Mr. Guo said his experience at Dana-Farber was “more humane.” Mr. Guo’s doctor let him speak. There was easy access to food in addition to beverages. The waiting area had a couch.

“In China, the most of which we can get is usually a metal chair,” he said, speaking by videoconference coming from his apartment in Boston. “Even having a cup of hot water is usually inconvenient.”

although the benefits can be fleeting. “The biggest challenge of which we’ve had is usually ensuring continuity of care when the patient returns back home to China,” said Misty Hathaway, who leads Mass General’s Center for Specialized Services.

Oscar Zhou, who founded Ryavo Health Management of Shanghai, another medical travel agency, said he had began to shift his business into one of which helped clients look for drugs in Hong Kong in addition to Macau as well as doctors who could treat the problem domestically.


Zhao Xiaoqing, 31, a bridge designer, at her office in Nanjing. She took her 5-year-old daughter to Germany for proton therapy treatment.

Patrick Wack for The brand-new York Times

“the item has caused a lot of problems. Many patients go overseas, in addition to indeed, for several months, the item’s Great,” Mr. Zhou said, adding of which he thought the outlook for businesses coming from a pure medical travel standpoint was limited. “although when they return, if their treatment can’t keep up, then the item’s useless.”

Others are more bullish. Cai Qiang — the founder of Beijing Saint Lucia Hospital Management Consulting Company, in which the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital has invested an undisclosed amount — says his number of clients has increased to about 1,000 last year, coming from just two in 2011.

Mr. Cai, who is usually widely considered the pioneer of medical travel in China, is usually trying to narrow the cultural gap between his Chinese clients in addition to American hospitals.

He recalled how an American hospital called him in for an “emergency meeting” after a Chinese patient walked unannounced into a doctor’s office using a question. The doctor was inside the middle of treating someone else.

“In China, we have no concept of privacy,” Mr. Cai said, adding of which his company had since set up a “patient education” department on the “dos” in addition to “don’ts” in hospitals abroad. “the item wasn’t the patient’s fault. the item was ours.”

Mr. Cai said he began the company after being moved by the friendliness of Australia’s doctors in addition to nurses when his daughter was born.

“Every year, there are so many Chinese people who buy imported cars, clothes, cosmetics,” Mr. Cai said. “They go abroad to travel in addition to send their children to study abroad. Why can’t a Chinese person consider going overseas to see a doctor if they are seriously ill?”

Last November, Zhao Xiaoqing, 31, a bridge designer inside the Chinese city of Nanjing, took her 5-year-old daughter, Kefei, to the Essen University Hospital in Germany to get proton therapy treatment for her child’s brain tumor. The treatment is usually available in Shanghai only for children 14 in addition to above. She spent about $140,000, more than half of of which borrowed coming from relatives.

Kefei’s tumor shrank. Ms. Zhao, who went to Germany with Ryavo Healthcare, is usually a satisfied customer, saying she was willing to spend double what she had paid.

“After going abroad, you can see of which the middlemen are not exaggerating,” she said. “In fact, what they’ve told us pales in comparison to what we’ve experienced.”

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China’s Ill, in addition to Wealthy, Look Abroad for Medical Treatment

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