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Health and wellness tourism in Switzerland

June 25, 2020

Switzerland is one of the top destinations for medical tourism. This article will provide details about health and wellness tourism in this country for your best personal health and wellness experience.


Switzerland has the best quality healthcare in the world / Ph: Pexels


Switzerland is a beautiful European country where you can find everything such as ancient castles, traditional villages, modern buildings, beautiful mountains with fresh air and the best healthcare system in the world rankings. That’s why it is the best destination for health tourism.


Why should you choose health tourism in Switzerland?


Compared to any other country in the world, this country has the highest quality of life. Along with it, Swiss health care system is one of the best systems in the world. Switzerland offers tourists hiking and skiing experience in the mountains, sightseeing and shopping in the ancient capital of Berne as well as traditional folk entertainment. In addition to that, in this country, private health and wellness clinic, spas, hospitals and healthy wellness centers have been focusing on international health tourism. Swiss medical tourism offers the best quality in the world which has been focusing on personal health and wellness.

Switzerland has been known as a country with the highest quality healthy wellness care for a century. Medical tourism in Switzerland is still growing and attracting tourists who interested in personal health and wellness from all around the world, especially from the Middle East, China and Russia. With a developed health and wellness industry, the popular Swiss health care services that tourists look for are treatments and procedures for orthopedic surgery, cosmetic surgery and medical spa, obesity surgery, neurosurgery, and IVF fertility treatment. Thanks to the quality of Swiss medical wellness and its experienced doctors, the health tourism in Switzerland is expected to increase. According to a recent study, there are 30,000 medical tourists come in Switzerland each year. Although there are other countries which offer quality healthcare for lower prices such as Hungary, Switzerland still manages to be one of the top places for health tourism.

At the moment, the number of self-paying patients from abroad to Switzerland for health care treatments and wellness services is small, around 0.5-5% of all the medical patients. However, in terms of finance, these patients are valuable because they contribute to education and training of health care professionals. In addition to that, they help build the reputation of Switzerland as one of the top countries for health tourism. Swiss health services have attracted patients who interested in personal health and wellness from all over the world thanks to their unique qualities. Not only do they have technologically advanced medical infrastructure with highly trained health care professionals, they also commit to protect the privacy of patients. Additionally, they care for patient’s health needs in a holistic and exclusive manner.


The challenge of Swiss health and wellness


Although healthcare in Switzerland has good quality, the high cost has been a challenge for it to attract patients who interested in personal health and wellness from other countries. Furthermore, Swiss health care professionals struggle with certain challenges that include language barrier, inter-cultural differences, gender and power dynamics. Also there is a mismatch between expectations of patients from the professionals and the patient’s interest. These challenges can be addressed through professional interpreters and intercultural sensitization.

Aside from that, there was an argument that the patients who interested in personal health and wellness from abroad will not have any adverse impact on access to Swiss health care of the local as long as there is not a rapid increase in the number of these patients in a short period of time. Currently, Swiss health tourism is focused on treating a number of ‘high potential’ clients than a large number of patients who interested in personal health and wellness from abroad. However, it is expected to change over time. It is also interesting to see how the ‘self-paying’ patients from abroad contribute to the Swiss health care system and how their service utilization could impact on the personal health and wellness received by the local patient population.


Important statistics of health tourism in Switzerland


It was not easy to get the exact number of ‘self-paying’ patients from abroad who travelled to Switzerland to get personal health and wellness treatments. As we stated above, the health and wellness clinic(s) and hospitals in Switzerland have strong commitment to medical tourists regarding their privacy, therefore, they were reluctant to provide these numbers. the number of medical tourists ranged between 0.5% to 5% of all patients. For some of the specialized private clinics, this number could be slightly higher and could range between 4% to 8%. Also, this number was estimated to be less than 1% for the university hospitals.


The number of medical tourists to Switzerland is still small / Ph: Pexels


To explain the lack of accurate number of medical tourists, there were two main reasons. The first one is that each health and wellness clinic had a different way to keep track of patients from abroad in terms of outpatient consultations and hospital admissions. The second reason is that not all medical tourists were required visa for medical reasons to enter Switzerland. Although you can find national database on the number of foreign patients treated in Switzerland each year, this number could include foreigners travelling to Switzerland for health tourism and getting treated in Swiss hospitals due to sickness or accident.


Who comes to Switzerland for health care?


High potential patients are the main focus for Swiss health tourism. Swiss health care focuses on those who have the necessary finance and can afford the personal health and wellness treatments or patients from the Middle Eastern States who have their cost of treatment covered by the government when they need to be treated in Switzerland. The embassies of those countries in Switzerland will organize care for these patients.

However, there has been a change in the profile of medical tourists to Switzerland recently. They are mainly the wealthy individuals and families who can afford the health care costs in Switzerland. Especially, there are celebrities and also the members of the royal families included. Furthermore, children from developing countries can get specialized treatments and surgeries based on sponsors from some humanitarian organizations and NGOs, but it is not very frequent. In general, medical tourists who comes to Switzerland for personal health and wellness are from the Middle Eastern States, Russia, China and countries previously part of USSR.


Attractive features of the Swiss health care system


Compared to other countries in Europe such as Germany, France or Austria, Swiss health care has high treatment cost. However, a lot of patients agree that Swiss health services provide better quality to cost ratio, which makes it one of the top destinations for health tourism. Technically, the care is quite similar between Germany, France and Switzerland, but the cost of treatment in Switzerland could be twice as high as it is in Germany. The factors that attribute to the value for more money spent on receiving health care in Switzerland are technologically advanced infrastructure, precision, personalized treatment plan, innovation and research from Swiss physicians and medical researchers and the country’s strength in hospitality.

“Swiss quality” is a new brand among medical tourists / Ph: Pexels


“Swiss quality” with a developed health and wellness industry has become a brand among a lot of medical tourists. For them, the high quality of services in Switzerland comes along with trustworthiness. Trust plays an important part in health care services, and most medical tourists don’t find it from the health care providers in their home countries. That’s why they agree to spend more for health care in Switzerland. In addition to that, because the healthcare providers in this country strongly commit to protect the privacy of their patients, a lot of wealthy patients and celebrities are paying more money to get treated in Switzerland.

The privacy for customers is extremely important. For example, if someone is being treated for mental illnesses or addictions or serious injuries, it could harm their reputation or status in social image, job position, political competitiveness whatever they are doing when someone reveals their disease states. Other features of the Swiss health care system that are attractive to patients abroad are linguistic abilities, high qualifications and expertise, its health care staff, their international background, professional behavior. Also the system has effective multidisciplinary team approach with high doctor-patient and nurse-patient ratio which are important keys in post-surgical recovery and rehabilitation.


Patients from abroad have contributed to the Swiss health care system


Although there is a small amount of medical tourists coming to Switzerland, they still make a significant financial contribution to the health system. These self-paying patients help in cross financing for local treatments. In particular, hospitals often do not cover the costs of the treatment for local patients with KVG. And the profits made from the treatment of medical tourists help to compensate the losses made due to the treatment for local patients with mandatory health insurance. Although we don’t have the exact number regarding how much is the financial contribution by the medical tourists to Swiss health care system, the medical tourists still play an important part in Swiss health tourism industry.


Medical tourists have contributed to the Swiss health care system / Ph: Pexels


Aside from those direct contributions, these patients also help improve the Swiss health care system indirectly in terms of enhancing skills and competencies of the health care staff. The reputation of Swiss hospitals and the health care professionals are also built by medical tourists as they come from different countries in the world. They also help maintain the required level of competence and training standards in centers of specialized care in Switzerland. In addition to that, some pathologies of medical tourists which are not popular in Switzerland help doctors in Swiss hospitals to educate themselves.


Challenges in attracting medical tourists


Despite the fact that Switzerland is one of the most popular medical tourism destinations in the world, and top countries for medical tourism in Europe with best plastic surgeons in Europe. Swiss health tourism still faces the challenges. The main one is the hesitation of patient due to the high cost of medical treatment in Switzerland. Moreover, other countries are also competitive in terms of cost which is another disadvantage of Switzerland. To attract medical tourists, a lot of clinics and hospitals, which supply personal health and wellness packages for tourists, have focused on creating exclusive service package instead of getting thousands of patients from abroad. Other problems that contribute to financial challenges are cost estimation, and recovery of full costs. For example, the hospital stay of the patient is longer than envisioned, or patients don’t show up for their planned appointments for out-patient consultations.


It has been challenging to attract medical tourists to Switzerland / Ph: Pexels


Specifically, the health care professionals don’t get quality medical records of the patient so it is hard to understand their condition in order to advise them whether or not to travel to Switzerland for personal health and wellness treatment. In addition to that, after the discharge or surgery, most patients did not return to Switzerland for follow-up. They just keep their doctors informed on their recovery.

Other challenges for health care providers include cultural and language barriers. To deal with them, a lot of private health and wellness clinic (s) involve professional interpreters during consultation at an extra cost. Also, some patients could save money if they bring along a family member who acts as an interpreter. Without a professional interpreter, it is hard to explain risks and probabilities of those risks during a complicated surgery for patients. As a result, patients and their families can’t fully understand the life threatening conditions.


Medical tourists have had an impact on health service in Switzerland


Local patients are still the largest client group in Switzerland and medical tourists do not cause any adverse impact on their access to health care. However, if appointments are not planned carefully, the local patients might have to wait for a longer time. As long as the medical tourists do not increase quickly, it is hard for them to make any adverse impact on the local population.

Switzerland is one of the most popular tourist destination in the world not only because of the country’s natural beauty, but also because this destination, with best plastic surgeons in Europe, hosts plastic surgeon (s) who are world famous for cosmetic surgery and it also has the best health spas in the world. The popular medical treatment(s) in the country are medical spa treatment, cosmetic surgery, IVF treatment, neurosurgery. All of these factors make Switzerland a worthwhile travel destination for health tourism.

We all know that Swiss medical treatment(s) is not easily affordable, however, it is definitely a destination to consider for health tourism. Medical tourists will have the opportunity to explore the beauty of this country and experience healthy wellness during their recovery.

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