If you are interested in tracking your blood biomarkers to monitor health risks or optimize performance, surprisingly, Bangkok is a great place to live.
You can get all of the standard biomarkers that are typically tracked in the U.S. tested here and many of the more specialized ones. The U.S. is the benchmark to compare against since it has the latest in testing available.
Outside of the U.S., even in anglo-saxon countries, testing availability can be a problem. Surprisingly, experience has shown me that Bangkok’s hospitals and labs have more up to date testing facilities than the National Health Service in the UK. This doesn’t include select private labs in London (e.g. Biolab Medical Unit) which are on par with the U.S.
One caveat: Don’t go to the hospitals. Using a good private lab in Bangkok will save you a lot of money and time and often get you much better service.
Advantages to Getting Blood Tests in Bangkok vs. the West
I’ve found that there are some great advantages to getting tests done in Bangkok that should put it on the map for “Biohacker Tourism” or “Medical Tourism”. If you’re on holiday in Thailand or stopping by on a business trip it’s worth taking a few hours out or even a day to organize getting some tests done here. If you live here it makes monthly tracking of the standard biomarkers very affordable.
The benefits of getting blood tests done in a good lab in Bangkok compared to the West include:
- Cost Savings: Blood testing prices can be as much as 75% lower in Bangkok compared to the U.S. thanks to lower medical staff costs here. I say can be, because if you go the typical “Private Hospital” route (e.g. Bumrungrad, Samitivej) as most foreigners do, you’ll find prices comparable to the U.S. or higher. In the last part of this post I give a comparison on the local lab options you have here.
- Direct Access: In Thailand, unlike the West, you can order and receive your test results directly. In the U.S., UK and other developed countries legal constraints mean that you have to go through a qualified doctor or physician. They will order your tests for you and receive the results on your behalf.
This means that in Bangkok you can avoid the time and hassle factor overheads of the only 3 options you have for getting tests done in the West:
- Going through Your Doctor: Most doctors are not accustomed to proactive biomarker tracking for performance optimization or health risk monitoring. Their sphere of work is focused on detecting and fixing acute illness. As a result, depending on your doctor’s exposure and openness to this kind of thing, you may have to go into a lot of explanations as to why you want the tests done and they may not order the tests that you want.
- Physician/ Doctor Friends: If you are lucky you may have a friend working in the profession who is willing to help you out and order and receive tests for you. This is my preferred approach and eliminates the overheads.
- Biomarker Tracking Services: Finally, private biomarker tracking services set up for people like us are just starting to appear in the U.S. market: WellnessFX and InsideTracker are the main ones. You can subscribe to these services getting one of their ‘testing packages’ with them handling the ‘qualified practitioner’ part. This works out well unless you want to test something they don’t offer in a package.
- Higher Responsiveness: With the right lab in Bangkok you can often get your test results the next day. I typically get blood taken on Saturday morning and receive the results in my email inbox the next day (and it’s a Sunday!) This compares really favorably against the typical week long wait you experience in the West.
How to Save 75% on Your Blood Tests
The differences in prices between private labs and the top private hospitals in Bangkok (e.g. Bumrungrad Hospital) are huge. If you are getting blood tests in Bumrungrad regularly you are paying between 2 and 10 times as much per test compared to some private labs.
Blood Test Costs in Bangkok Labs and Private Hospitals
Liver function profile tests (typically charged between $25 and $35 in the U.S.) have the greatest price difference as do other routine tests such as BUN and CBC. Getting a Liver Function Test at Bria Labs costs you just 10% of the price at Bumrungrad and about a third of the U.S. cost.
Avoiding Additional Service Charges: While it’s not a legal requirement the hospitals will try to push you into an appointment with a paid physician and/ or charge you services fees on top of the test costs. You can sometimes get round the physician appointment at Samitivej by walking up to the reception desk and asking for the tests directly – but with Bumrungrad it’s standard procedure. These add another 600 to 1,300 baht to your overall bill. With Bria Lab service costs have never come up – other private labs may differ.
It’s also typical for blood test results to get returned to you from private hospitals in 3 days to a week’s time after blood taking. Labs tend to be quicker and Bria Lab in particular has virtually a 24 hour turnaround time. If you ever have an urgent need to get information back this is great to know.
Other private labs I have not tried include Bangkok Medical Laboratory, RSU Healthcare and Path Lab. I’ve contacted these but not been able to get a response which I believe is due to a lack of English speaking staff.
You can get most of the blood tests available via U.S. labs in Bangkok at much lower prices and without going through a doctor/ physician.
Private hospitals like Bumrungrad and Samitivej charge high premiums for blood tests compared to some private labs. This tends to be worst with the most routine costs (e.g. liver function test).
Bria Lab is a private lab in Bangkok that will save you 75% over the typical private hospital testing costs here. In my experience Bria Lab are more professional and efficient (I typically get all the results the next day).
I head over there once a month to get a long list of biomarkers tracked for less than US$80 (2500 Baht) total. While in the U.S. I would hesitate to get tests every month because of the cost and inconvenience, here it’s so easy and cheap that it’s a no-brainer.