Yes, we have all heard the stories. Stories of patients in need of treatment in the Western hemisphere traveling to countries such as Thailand or India in need for more affordable healthcare, stories of hospitals in the so-called developed world outsourcing certain diagnostic procedures to the so-called emerging markets, or stories of hospitals in the United States who meet their staffing needs by recruiting nurses and doctors from other countries. In a time when the World Health Organization ranks countries such as Singapore 6th among the world’s healthcare systems and the United States only 37th, quality concerns are no longer an issue in discussions about the globalization of healthcare. Only questions of liability are still raised as big impediments to a fully globalized healthcare industry. But even these no longer seem to be barriers for business. In Europe, Capio of Sweden, which operates in several European countries including Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland, is owned by global private equity form Apax. And let’s just look at other world regions. Dubai Healthcare City is the world’s first healthcare free trade zone, attracting global brands such as the Mayo Clinic from the USA, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital from the UK, the German Heart Centre or the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital. The Cleveland Clinic has entered a contract to manage a hospital in Abu Dhabi and has established similar arrangements with hospitals in Austria, Canada, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Or, let’s look at recent transnational mergers and acquisitions activity in other world regions. In mid-July US-based private equity firms Carlyle and TPG acquired Australia’s Healthscope for nearly US$ 2 billion. Among several hospitals in Australia, Healthscope also has operations in New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. In late July, Integrated Healthcare Holdings Ltd of Malaysia won a battle against the Indian Fortis group over Parkway hospitals of Singapore. It seems that the pace at which the world of healthcare is becoming flat is accelerating rapidly.
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