According to Iran’s Ministry of Health, out of 1,100 hospitals in our country, 250 have been granted the license to accept health tourists. Saeed Karimi, the deputy director of the Ministry of Health, recently announced the streamlining of health tourism licensing for medical centers, Tasnim News Agency reported.
He explained that the process, “from document submission to license approval”, takes approximately one month.
While 27 provinces in our country have centers capable of providing inpatient services to health tourists, there is still a need to increase the number of centers with health tourism licenses. This is because the influx of foreign currency resulting from the growth of health tourism significantly boosts the financial turnover of our medical facilities.
Karimi emphasized the importance of health tourism licensing, highlighting the unique standards and benefits offered by licensed centers. For instance, many foreign clients lack proficiency in Fars, the official language of Iran, which can pose challenges in unlicensed centers. However, licensed centers provide translators, technical officers, and dedicated medical staff in order to ensure that foreign patients receive high-quality services.
Iraq stands out as the top source of health tourists coming to Iran, followed by patients from 164 other countries, including those from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Pakistan,
Moreover, infertility treatment is the most common reason for referrals of foreign patients, closely followed by ophthalmology, orthopedics, cosmetic and pediatric surgery, and heart diseases.
Despite having enormous potential to attract health tourists, Iran has yet to fully capitalize on these opportunities and maximize its income. According to Karimi, last year alone, 1.2 million foreign patients sought medical treatment in Iran, generating one billion dollars in revenue. However, the country has the capacity to earn ten times that amount if it strategically harnesses its potential to attract tourists.
The World Trade Organization classifies health tourism into three types: medical tourism, health tourism, and preventive tourism. Medical tourism involves seeking treatment and undergoing surgeries in medical centers or hospitals. With over 1,100 hospitals and 55,000 beds, Iran boasts substantial capacity to accommodate a large number of foreign patients. Remarkably, approximately 25 percent of hospital beds in the country remain unoccupied, providing a solid foundation for welcoming international patients.
Health tourism, on the other hand, encompasses the post-treatment recovery period, where patients enjoy medical supervision while utilizing various therapeutic resources such as hot springs, salt lakes, mud therapy, and climate-based treatments. Iran’s favorable climate, rich history, pristine natural landscapes, salt lakes, and diverse climatic conditions make it an attractive destination for health tourists seeking rejuvenation and recuperation.
Lastly, preventive tourism involves traveling to health villages and areas featuring mineral water springs and spas, providing an opportunity to escape the stresses of daily life and revitalize one’s well-being without medical interventions. Unfortunately, the development of such health villages, despite the existence of suitable urban and rural locations with favorable climates, has been neglected, representing a missed opportunity in attracting health tourists.
However, there are notable challenges facing foreign patients seeking medical care in Iran. The lack of easily accessible information regarding medical centers, services offered, and associated costs remains a significant hurdle. Additionally, lack of a comprehensive system suitable for following up with patients after they return to their home countries is another issue. Efforts should be made to provide foreign patients with up-to-date information, mobile-friendly platforms, and dedicated support to ensure a seamless experience.
Health tourism, undoubtedly, could serve as a catalyst for economic growth in Iran, providing a lifeline amidst challenging times. Through embracing this industry and leveraging our country’s strengths, we can attract a larger number of health tourists, gain substantial revenue, and establish Iran as a premier destination for high-quality medical services and holistic well-being.