The U.S. is receiving a growing number of tourists from China visiting for medical treatments they cannot get at home, according to China Daily. Though there are no official data indicating how many Chinese travel overseas for medical treatment, various sources, the newspaper said, estimate that more than 3,000 Chinese patients came to the U.S. last year for medical care, and about three quarters of them sought treatment for cancer, with lung, breast, liver and stomach cancer the most common types.
“This is a relatively new thing in the last two years that many people from China have been coming to the U.S. for medical care. Prior to that, there were very small numbers,” Spencer Koerner, medical director of the Center for International Health and Telemedicine at Cedars-Sinai, told China Daily. “We noticed a year and a half ago when we started receiving more patients from China and many of them were recommended by people living in San Gabriel Valley.”
On the Center’s website, the tourism pitch is on the home page: “Staff members … can help you with translations or arranging special religious or cultural diets. Turn to them for help with travel, lodging and transportation during your stay. They can even help you arrange for tours and other diversions while you’re in Los Angeles.”
While medical centers, such as the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and the Cleveland Clinic, are beginning to compete on reputation, cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York have the added benefit of large Chinese populations, said Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, a company that publishes medical travel guides.
Medical travelers tend to visit destinations that not only offer excellent medical care, but cultural familiarity as well, so a Chinese resident with a family in Los Angeles would be more likely to choose a nearby hospital within the region, particularly in an area like Southern California, which offers so much choice in quality medical care, he explained.
To promote Los Angeles as a medical tourism destination, the executives of five area hospitals—Cedars Sinai, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, City of Hope, Keck School of Medicine of USC and UCLA Health—joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on a trip to Guangzhou in late 2014, where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to attract more Chinese medical tourists to the region.