Medical tourism is an imperative factor for both national health care systems and global health in this era of globalized medicine, when international travel and access to online health information are easy to come by. Patients from all over the world are gaining more control over their health care options by seeking information from sources other than their regular health care providers and, in some cases, opting for treatment options outside their native country’s medical system.
It is defined as “the practice of travelling to another country for the purpose of receiving health care (elective surgery, dental treatment, gender-re-assignment operation, organ transplantation, Orthopaedic surgery (hip replacement, resurfacing, knee replacement, joint surgery), medical checkups, cancer treatment, and so on),” and is distinguished from both unplanned medical emergencies that occur abroad and formal bi-lateral medical trade agreements.
The World Tourism Organization reports that tourism has been growing steadily in all directions recently. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of trips for visiting friends and relatives, medical treatment and improving health, and religious visits increased from 252 million to 377 million.
Benefits of Medical Tourism:
Medical tourism is gaining popularity because it promotes access to healthcare in states where some medical treatment/interventions are not available or accessible to their residents.
Patients seek medical tourism because the operations they require can be performed in other countries at a lower cost and without the delay and inconvenience being placed on a waiting list in their home country. Furthermore, some patients travel to certain places in order to receive treatments that are not available in their own country. Stem cell transplants and gender reassignment surgery are two examples of such procedures.
Depending on the operation and the nation to which they visit, medical tourists can save from around 20% to 80% on medical expenditures. There are a number of factors that play their role:
- In the United States, diagnostic testing and drugs are very costly.
- Labor expenditures for nurses, aides, surgeons, pharmacists, physical therapists, and others are included.
Boosts Economic Development and improves quality of health
Medical tourism boosts economic development and improves the quality of healthcare in the destination country.
Medical tourism, like any other sort of tourism, is certainly an important part of a stable economy. It can contribute to economic diversification and increased profitability not only through foreign currency inflows, but also by increasing local employment, improving the skills of local staff, stimulating healthcare investment, improving the quality of medical and related services, and improving the country’s own nation’s health.
Medical tourism development is influenced by both microeconomic and macroeconomic factors. Microeconomic factors relate to the receivers and providers of healthcare. Macroeconomic factors relate to the government policy being implemented to support the development of medical tourism.
Driving Forces behind Medical Tourism
Globalization, economic, social, cultural, and technical are all driving forces behind medical tourism.
There is also the growth of patient choice and forms of consumerism, even in countries where public services have traditionally been subsidized. All expectations are now met thanks to the openness of information and the rise of varied provider competing on quality and pricing.
The Current Scenario of Medical Tourism
As medical tourism has gained in popularity, there have been ongoing efforts to ensure treatment quality and standards. Accreditation agencies around the world, like as Accreditation Canada and the Joint Commission International in the United States, have given official recognition to a number of international hospitals and provided patient recommendations. Many worldwide hospitals are actively pursuing certification in the hopes of attracting patients by demonstrating the quality and standards of their medical care.
Several companies have come into existence whose sole business is to help patients get treatment abroad.
Medical tourism is a growing global industry with a variety of commercial stakeholders, including brokers, health care providers, insurance providers, and website providers, and conference and media services. Figure 2 summarizes these commercial interests.
Evolution and Future of Medical Tourism
Modern medical tourism has its origins in ancient history and can be found over all continents. Even before the ancient Greeks began constructing shrines to Asclepius (the Greek god of medicine), there is evidence of various hill tribes in modern-day Switzerland travelling to present-day German and French lands to visit iron-rich hot springs that they believed had healing powers.
During the Renaissance, Europeans rediscover the healing powers of hot springs, sparking a new wave of travel across the continent. As we can see, thermal springs, wellness and herbal solutions such as Ayurveda are still in high demand today.
Medical tourism’s current trends
The reasons for travel vary depending on the patient’s country of origin. Those who travel from the so-called ‘developed’ world to the so-called ‘developing’ world may do so because the prices are lower than in their home countries and the technology is still viable.
Common places for Medical Tourism
Many Australians travel to other countries for health care in order to save money. This is especially true for cosmetic and dental surgery in South-East Asia. Some of the most popular destinations for Australian medical tourists are:
- South Korea
Most medical tourists travel abroad to save money. Some, however, seek experimental or alternative treatments that are not available in their country. This is true for Australians travelling to the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).
Before travelling to another country for medical treatment, read the travel advisory for your destination. For information on local healthcare, go to the ‘Health’ section.