Medical Tourism Gains Momentum

Medical Tourism Gains MomentumMedical Tourism Gains Momentum

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has given travel agencies and tour operators two months to apply for medical (or health) tourism permits.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Morteza Rahmani Movahed, the organization’s tourism deputy, said Health Tourism Leadership Council will review applications and issue licenses to qualified applicants.

The council comprises members of foreign and health ministries, ICHHTO and the Islamic Republic of Iran Medical Council. Formed in early 2015, the council approved regulations for health tourism providers.

“Travel agencies across the country were notified of the regulations a few months ago,” he said, noting that some agencies would rather march to the beat of their own drum.

Movahed warned that unlicensed agencies active in the health tourism sector will be prosecuted.

  Benefits of Licensure

Licensed tour agencies and operators will enjoy numerous benefits and will be supported by the council.

“Benefits include promotion of their services and extension of loans to expand their operations. Facilitation of visa issuance is another advantage,” he said.

Movahed said provincial tourism officials have been given a month to identify agencies that provide health tourism services.

“After the deadline, no permits will be granted. [The government] is expected to ensure high quality health services, so we have to regulate activities in this sector,” he said.

  Health Ministry’s Role

The official said travel agencies providing health tourism services must have a licensed medical doctor acting as a technical director.

“The Health Ministry is tasked with training qualified individuals for the post,” he said.

Licensed agencies can either select a technical director from a list provided by the ministry, or introduce a medical professional of their choosing for training by the ministry.

Elaborating on the task of technical directors, Movahed said the medical technical directors will help agency managers by preparing patient files and compiling their medical history.

“Hospitals will also be ranked based on the quality of services offered in different specialties, and those which meet the Health Ministry’s standards will be added to a list compiled by the ministry. Licensed travel agencies will get access to the list,” he said.

This makes it easier for health tourists to find hospitals offering top-quality care suited to their medical needs.

In 2004, roughly 12,000 people traveled to Iran to receive medical care and the number reached 17,000 in 2005. However, the number of visitors in the following years is unknown due to lack of reliable data.

In May, Deputy Health Minister Mohammad Haji Aqajani told Fars News Agency that hospitals will be required to register patients who have entered Iran for the sole purpose of receiving medical treatment.

This will provide authorities with detailed information about the type of treatment each person receives, among a host of other useful data, which allows officials to devise effective plans to upgrade facilities and equipment.

”The lack of such a system has held us back for too long,” Aqajani said.

According to Masoud Soltanifar, the head of ICHHTO, Iran’s annual revenue from health tourism is between $400 million and $500 million, while the target is to reach $2.5 billion in the foreseeable future.