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Hackernoon logoHow Blockchain May Disrupt Medical Tourism in the ASEAN Region by@ks.shilov

How Blockchain May Disrupt Medical Tourism in the ASEAN Region

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@ks.shilovKirill

Blockchain enthusiast developer and writer. My telegram: ksshilov

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region includes several countries sharing an economic profile that has proven beneficial to the development of blockchain projects. The mix of developing economies with pockets of accruing wealth during a boom decade, not to mention lenient regulations, makes this region of Southeast Asia a hotspot for blockchain activity. 

The ASEAN region is known for its wide and deep adoption of alternative payment pathways, including various fintech solutions and in-chat payment tools. This approach to digital payments to replace cash has opened the door to digital coins as well. Once the idea of blockchain-based payments took off, other use cases could also grow as the region drew in startups and token sales. 

The region has already reached global levels of development and connections, making it a desirable destination for international relations.

This phenomenon underlies the recent boom in “medical tourism,” an activity in which travelers seek medical care at a lower cost in other countries even though their home countries have highly developed medical infrastructure. The ASEAN group is a target for visitors from neighboring countries seeking lower-cost treatments or those that are unavailable in their own countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) noted the expansion of travel for both essential treatments and cosmetic or wellness healthcare. “The growth in medical travel is largely due to improved availability of health technology, decreasing costs for travel and advertising by companies wishing to attract patients,” WHO explained in a paper outlining the trend. 

Even WHO has difficulties tallying the data on medical tourism, yet the organization notes a successful decade for therapeutic destinations. 

In the ASEAN region, special attention has been given to: 

  • Thailand, serving as a hub of medicine and pharmaceutics. A decade ago, estimates on Thailand ranged between a million and 1.5 million visitors involved in the country’s healthcare. 
  • Indonesia is the other regional leader, with more than $11.5 billion in health-related revenues based on 2017 research. Low airline fares, lenient visa requirements, and quality healthcare drive the growth, drawing in medical tourists both from the ASEAN region and Western countries.
  • Vietnam attracts Chinese medical tourists due to proximity, with a threefold increase of cross-border visits between 2010 and 2018. In addition, the Vietnam medical sector grows by up to 20% per year, with chief medical tourism in the fields of dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

Overall, there is a trend of demand for various surgeries seeking quality in essential treatments, as well as cosmetic surgery and, to a lesser degree, dentistry. As mentioned before, the World Health Organization does not have reliable data on this subject and instead uses extrapolations to gauge the demand and impact of international travel for healthcare. This lack of data opens a use case for blockchain-based data collection, suggesting a transparent, searchable database for a growing medical field. 

Blockchain-based data collection can add to the sector’s growth by increasing accountability. A blockchain-based solution can also become a gauge of quality, as well as a tool for recommendations.

So far, research shows that big hospitals take the bulk of cases, with room to grow for smaller medical companies. Until now, the growth has been enough to generate demand for startups, creating the first cross-sections of blockchain companies that target medical trips.

We have selected three projects for their expertise and focus on various aspects of medical tourism, including quality monitoring and travel logistics.

Xceltrip: Harnessing Blockchain Payments for Booking and Logistics

Xceltrip is one of the hubs for arranging health-related travel and lodging in various countries throughout Southeast Asia. The use case for blockchain-based assets within the Xceltrip system is to serve as borderless, relatively inexpensive tools for cross-border payments. While bank transfers tend to be slow and limited, payment in BTC can be monitored in real-time and verified within minutes. Xceltrip also offers a secure wallet to pay in multiple assets, including LTC, DASH, BNB, ETH, and others. The project also issues its own Xceltoken plus (XLAB) as yet another payment option. 

Having a one-stop hub for trip and hotel booking may expand the opportunities to reach quality healthcare in the ASEAN region. Xceltrip already brings to the table a formidable network of over 2.4 million hotels and 450+ flights worldwide.

VIC Rewards: Expands Healthcare Outreach through Blockchain and AI

VIC Rewards is another big player in the health tourism space, with a heightened focus on clinics and wellness providers. VIC Rewards is a dedicated blockchain provider for the medical space, focusing on loyalty rewards and providing transparent access to healthcare. The startup has also unrolled its VIC reward token through the LAToken exchange to be used within its network of clinics and providers.

VIC Rewards is deepening its involvement by partnering with Xceltrip. VIC Marketplace specializes in aggregating in-demand wellness medicine services. The goal of VIC Rewards is to onboard up to 500 practitioners in the fields of wellness and anti-aging medicine. 

Additionally, VIC Rewards plans to use the booking system of Xceltrip to offer pre-packaged trips with popular wellness treatments. The partnership will aim to take a bite out of a vast market for treatments, and an inflow of patients to India as well as the ASEAN group of countries. 

“According to India’s Ministry of Tourism figures, India's medical tourism industry could grow by 200% by 2020 hitting $9 billion,” said a Dr. Satur.

The partnership of Xceltrip and VIC Rewards will aim to harness the local market, arranging trips from India and other neighboring countries of the ASEAN group:

“Through us, consumers and travelers should be able to put together a Vitality package focusing on their needs rather than accepting just another generic travel offering. Furthermore, imagine that after your travel, the combined platform will be able to suggest other better opportunities for you to improve your health. Using blockchain technology, VIC Loyalty Rewards offers such advances to the people all over the world,” said Gyanendra Khadka, CEO of Xceltrip.

Robomed Network: Globalized Healthcare

The Robomed Network takes a more global approach to health tourism. Based on a blockchain record, this startup wants to revolutionize personal patient dossiers.

Health information is highly sensitive and often difficult to keep in one usable, shareable format, which is precisely why Robomed Network aims to create a blockchain-based patient identity, which can extend healthcare to remote locations. 

Aside from protecting patient data, Robomed Network will aim to build its own network of healthcare providers. Blockchain infrastructure is ideal to include decentralized parties, which will communicate and perform their duties by utilizing smart contracts. Thus, Robomed Network uses the strongest tools of blockchain records - encrypted communication - to ensure safe and secure patient data transfer.

Until now, patient dossiers were kept in an ad-hoc fashion and often fell victim to loss or security breaks. A blockchain identity protected by a private key can allow a patient to control and share their data securely while avoiding unauthorized exposure.

Robomed started in Moscow by raising $30 million. Their approach to building a healthcare network involves the use of a digital asset wallet. Robomed users can deposit funds in fiat, then receive a digital token to access treatment and make payments. The Clinicoin asset, part of the Robomed ecosystem, is also issued as a reward to users engaging in healthy behavior. 

Conclusion

Health and wellness thus turn into a field ripe for disruption through blockchain technology. The need for best-value healthcare, searching for the best provider, and keeping a safe record are valuable niches for crypto startups. Emerging economies and improving the quality of healthcare turned into a notable trend in the past two decades. Now, attention is focused on the ongoing growth of health hubs that also need to adapt to post-Covid logistics. 

The ASEAN region, with already expanding crypto adoption, may just be one of the next hotspots to develop blockchain enterprises for the healthcare sector!

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