Project Management Institute

Destination: Surgery

Medical Tourism Projects Focus on Building World-Class Facilities


Medical tourism hot spots include Monterrey, Mexico.


Medical tourism is taking flight around the world. And teams are taking on construction projects that deliver healthcare facilities and spa-like recovery suites so patients can take advantage of inexpensive procedures and expert care abroad.

Overall, the global medical tourism market is expected to grow 15.7 percent annually to reach US$143.8 billion by 2022, according to Allied Market Research. Governments, medical organizations and hotel companies all view medical tourism as a lucrative emerging sector. “There are sizable opportunities for providers along the entire value chain,” says Florian Schaudel, partner, McKinsey & Co., Frankfurt, Germany.

The global medical tourism market is expected to hit US$143.8 billion by 2022.

Source: Allied Market Research

For example, sponsors in Mexico are launching projects to develop medical hubs near Cancun, Acapulco and Monterrey. In the latter, the Monterrey Healthcare City Cluster already includes a handful of public and private hospitals—offering 1,359 hospital beds in all. China's tropical island province of Hainan is in the midst of a CNY23 billion medical tourism program. The government there is partnering with private companies to execute 27 projects that will create a hub for wealthy Chinese patients on 1,600 acres (647 hectares).

But comprehensive collaboration across different organizations is required to build facilities that address the full spectrum of medical tourists’ needs and preferences. Project teams must address language requirements and signage, worship preferences, food and dietary needs, patient limitations and more. And they need to consider how medical services should be integrated with airlines, travel agencies and transportation services.

“Patients must enjoy and experience a seamless journey, from the moment they begin searching for information in their home countries to their arrival, having successful treatments and onto the return trip home with excellent post-care,” says Sherene Azli, CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is another hot spot for medical tourism projects. The city generated AED1.4 billion from medical tourism in 2016, drawing in 326,649 medical tourists, a 9.5 percent visitor increase from 2015. Support for the sector from the UAE government is helping to drive its growth, including, for example, by streamlining visas for medical visits.

Hotels and resorts are gearing up for more foreign patients by launching new projects. The five-star TIME Royal Hotel & Spa in the Dubai Healthcare City will offer 277 rooms, including 22 “specially designed suites to assist all patients in their recovery phase and resting period,” says the hotel's CEO, Mohamed Awadalla, Dubai, UAE. Set to open at the end of 2018, the TIME Royal Hotel's rooms will be handicapped accessible, equipped with recovery beds, kitchenettes and electrical outlets designed for medical equipment. Catering to other essential stakeholder requirements, the hotel will also have facilities for occupational and physical therapy, examination rooms, a backup generator to ensure nonstop power, and a medical reception desk to manage, schedule and handle all the requests and coordinate with hospitals.


Construction of Evergrande International Hospital in a medical tourism district in Hainan, China



“There are sizable opportunities for providers along the entire value chain.”

—Florian Schaudel, McKinsey & Co., Frankfurt, Germany

Managing these varied requirements, Mr. Awadalla says, means seeking input from medical specialists and contractors, gaining insight from design and engineering teams and understanding patients’ needs. It's also critical to work with government officials and tourist boards to address everything from regulations to marketing.

The ultimate objective, he says, is to “elevate medical standards and convenience” beyond the hospital. —Sam Greengard

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