Getting Blood Tests in Bangkok: Private Labs vs. Hospitals

blood-testsIf 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

This is a sample of some of the cost data I’ve collected from my current favorite private lab (Bria Lab) and the two main private hospitals (Bumrungrad and Samitivej).

Blood Test Costs in Bangkok Labs and Private Hospitals

blood-test-prices-bangkokSource: Bills and Requests for Pricing Information 2013

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.

Takeaways

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.

Posted in Testing, Thailand
  • Bix

    Very informative post! Thank you very much. I have two questions:

    1- For the tests that you did not list a price, do they not offer it?

    2- Do you know of a private clinic in Bangkok to do body composition/DEXA testing other than the major hospitals.

    • http://biohacked.net/ damien blenkinsopp

      Hey Bix,

      1. They do provide them and many more – at the time of writing this, it’s just that I hadn’t collected them yet. The prices follow the same pattern for the ones not noted.

      2. Sorry I don’t know about DEXA or BodPods in Bangkok. If you find any, do let me know.

      • Eliza

        Hi guys
        Has anyone found a DEXA or bod pod in Bangkok yet? Thanks!

        • http://biohacked.net/ damien blenkinsopp

          Hey Eliza, found a unit at Samitivej hospital: http://www.samitivejhospitals.com/medicalservice/sukhumvit/radiology_department_140/en

          However, they told me that they only use it for bone density assessment and are not set up for body composition. Unfortunately, I think you’ll find this to be the norm with DEXA’s at hospitals in Thailand.

          They pointed me to their Inbody service, which is actually just a bioelectrical impedance unit and they are seriously overcharging for – 1300 THB (http://www.samitivejhospitals.com/healtharticle_detail/inbody_606/en). If you want to check out bio-impedance instead I know they have a unit at True gym on sukhumvit you can use for free whenever you go there – I was on a subscription to that gym. I don’t know if they have a daily walk-in fee. Always worth a try.

        • Micah

          I saw online that the Queen Sirikit Insitute of Child Health has one. I contacted them, and they said they weren’t sure it was only available for children or not. However, the lady I talked to was in a different division, and she said she’d put me in contact with those who would know. Hopefully it works out.

  • KansasMom

    Do you know if they offer all thyroid tests? And do you need an appointment? I’ve contacted the lab and hospital, but doubt I’ll hear back from them. We’ll be in Bangkok for one day! I’d love to get these tests done while we’re there, because I can’t get them where we live! Thanks!

    • http://biohacked.net/ damien blenkinsopp

      They certainly offer TSH, T3 and T4.

      You don’t need an appointment, just make sure it’s in their opening hours – I typically go at 8am. I would telephone day before if you can. It generally isn’t very busy and they serve me almost right away.

  • KansasMom

    Thanks so much for the prompt reply! I’ve just been diagnosed with overactive thyroid, probably because of Grave’s. I need the next level of anti-body testing to see if there’s anything going on in my immune system, rather than just treating the thyroid. I’ll go and see if they can do it! Thanks!

  • Edle

    Hi Damien – thanks, this is a very useful article. I have been taking tests at Phyathai hospital, as I have found it to be the cheapest of the international hospitals in Bangkok, and they do not require me to see a doctor. But I will try the Bria Lab next time. For those who happen to be in Pattaya, I can recommend pattaya-lab.com, a small private lab. Reasonable prices and excellent service – results were emailed to me the next day before 7 am.

    • http://biohacked.net/ damien blenkinsopp

      Thanks for the Pattay Lab tip @edle:disqus

  • Emilos

    Hi Damien, Thanks for this great information blog, and this post. I saw you on the CreativeLive episodes, where I thought you had some good questions and input.

    I am currently in Thailand for 3 months. I have had a hard time finding a post that describes which biomarkers to test, and what levels are acceptable + how to improve them.

    Did you write already write a post about that, or can you link to one?

    The bloodtests you take, are they specific for your situation? Or are they general, and the ones you would recommend to most people?

    On wellness FX they talk about hs-CRP, which I saw reoccured on your list, but besides that I am not quite sure which ones to take.

    I will be in Bangkok for a while, and would love to have some tests done.

    Would be great with a resource to learn more.

    Thanks again.

    • http://biohacked.net/ damien blenkinsopp

      Hi Emilio, thanks for the kind words.

      I do have a post for blood markers in the works, but won’t be ready for a while (right now I am very busy with other stuff). I track a combination of general and specific to my situation markers.

      Quick pointer: For general, hs-CRP, liver and kidney function tests, CBC, hba1c, iron panel, LDL, HDL and triglycerides.

  • http://www.stfual.com/ StFual

    Brialab seems to outsource their testosterone testing as it takes a long time and its expensive ( more than Bumrungrad). Other tests were quick and cheap. Anyone have a reliable lab for Testosterone.?

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