Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
Years of war and crisis have damaged the health infrastructure in Afghanistan. Limited capacity, few trained professionals, inadequate resources and more patients in need of treatment have fractured the healthcare system and forced many within the borders of Afghanistan to seek care elsewhere.
After years of struggle and confronted with mounting poor facilities and services, the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health initiated a national strategy to improve healthcare. Progress has been made1. National programs have been launched that focus on improving healthcare for members of the military and for women and children. But, these improvements have not been enough to reduce the throngs of patients seeking care outside of their own borders.
Emergency NGO (Non-Governmental Agency) reported war-related admissions to healthcare facilities in Afghanistan were up 42 percent in the first months of 2013 compared to a similar period in 2012. In another report, the World Health Organization claimed a 40 percent increase in non-functioning healthcare facilities, in 2012, compared to those from the previous year. Poor security and funding prevented 540 health centers across the country from operating under normal circumstances2. The number of patients and lack of resources are ongoing problems, but so, too, is national security, which has many medical staff personnel concerned about travelling to work. Until stability surfaces in the region, the Afghan population will have difficulty finding even a simple medical check-up.
Khalil Ahmad Mohmand, president of Max Global Consulting Services (MGCS), assists patients who are looking to travel beyond the Afghani borders for quality and much needed care. Mohmand, who presents at the 6th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, shared some of hisexperiences and those of patients and healthcare practitioners in Afghanistan.
What are reasons patients decide to leave Afghanistan for healthcare?
There might be many reasons, such as limited number of quality healthcare facilities for diagnosis and treatment, lack of new and modern diagnostic and treatment technology, and a few highly trained human resources personnel, among others.
According to the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan, 99.3 percent of those who were treated abroad stated that the medical attention was better than in Afghanistan.
How many people leave Afghanistan for healthcare each year?
Though there is no official figure available, the Ministry of Public health reports: “A large number of patients visit abroad for treatment through different boarders of the country.”
“The Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health estimates Afghans travelling abroad for treatment spend US$ 1300 (72000 AFs).”
Where do your clients wish to travel to and for what procedures?
Most chose to travel to India, Pakistan and, in some cases, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Turkey. The procedures they travel for are:
- Treatment of cardiovascular disease
- Cardiac surgery
- General surgery (selective cases)
- Neuro surgery (spin surgery)
- Renal diseases/procedures, especially kidney stone removal
- Dental procedures
- Cosmetic surgery
Are patients who leave Afghanistan for medical care covered by some form of insurance?
There is no medical insurance system for travelling abroad for services. The payment method is out-of-pocket and in cash.
How do these patients afford to travel to another country for care?
A percentage of people can afford to travel to another country. The Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health estimates Afghans travelling abroad for treatment spend US$ 1300 (72000 AFs).
How do clients find your company? What is your marketing technique?
We are in contact with a network of doctors in Afghanistan, who refer patients to us. Meanwhile, we have found that wordof- mouth from satisfied customers is working well.
Do you have partnerships with a few hospitals in other countries or does the patient choose?
Initially, we established partnerships with some of the most prestigious hospitals in India, but high cost was an issue. For example, when patients arrived in India, they would find and purchase some services at a lower cost than the hospitals we had first proposed. We currently do not have any specific or well-established network.
How do you determine if the healthcare facility is of good quality? Do you require accreditation?
Different aspects of care are considered when deciding which facilities to recommend.
- Some healthcare organizations in India are known internationally for clinical excellence, making it easier to recommend.
- We also obtained information on the quality of services through reviewing hospital and physician profiles and the accreditation document posted on their websites.
- In some cases, past experience, positive outcomes from past procedures, and patient satisfaction were also factors for selecting healthcare facilities.
Who are you interested in meeting at this year’s Congress?
I want to meet healthcare providers from countries and governments which can offer and provide facilities to connect patients from Afghanistan to regional and international medical tourism markets.
Middle East/GCC Consumer Markets: Nov. 5, 2013, 11 a.m.-12:50 p.m., Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
A panel consisting of Khalil Ahmad Mohmand, Dr. Mays Al Saffar, vice president of human resources and administration, Murdoch University, Dubai, and Dr. Walid M. Albakeli, a Middle East and GCC administrator, Apollo Hospital, will guide discussions on Middle East/GCC consumer markets including current employee insurance benefits and how they relate to medical tourism.