Medical tourism most often refers to travel outside of one's own country to receive medical care. Once, most medical tourists traveled to countries that offered services unavailable at home. However, today patients travel for many reasons, so what really is medical tourism?
Traditionally, developing countries offered fewer medical services. As a result, it was common for their inhabitants to travel to developed countries for treatment. This type of travel for treatment, then, mostly referred to travel from undeveloped to developed countries.
However, as globalization has spread technology and services worldwide, that has changed. Now, patients in developed countries bargain hunt in less-developed countries. They combine inexpensive flight and lodging with low-cost procedures.
Some countries, such as Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, the Czeck Republic, Turkey, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have made medical tourism an important industry.
Why is it Called Medical Tourism?
As the word, "tourism," implies, medical tourism, for the most part, means more than fly-in/fly-out. It generally involves some time staying in the foreign country. following the procedure.
Who would want to fly to a foreign country and not see the sites? Medical tourists not only visit afar for treatment, but they also enjoy the local scenery. They may visit local restaurants, walk on the beach, take day trips, go sightseeing, or attend events. With lower costs, travelers get more for their dollar.
According to a Deloitte report, 750,000 patients flew outside the US for treatment in 2007. The report estimated 19 million by 2015. And, the Asian Journal of Management Sciences estimated the value of the Indian medical tourism industry at $6 billion by 2018.
Tourism obviously has a huge impact on the medical industry. Here are some of the reasons why patients fly overseas for treatment:
Saving Patients Money
It is no secret that the US has some of the world's most expensive health care. But, the average procedure costs are lower in countries such as Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. For example, in South Korea, procedure costs range from 25 - 45% of those in the US. Similarly, Mexican procedures cost only 40 - 60% of US equivalents.
Cost stands as one of the principal driving factors for this industry. And, not only patients seek better deals. Employers and insurance companies also use it to mitigate costs.
The countries offering these services understand their value. For example, Mexico, in 2012, saw $11.27 billion in income from medical tourism. It accounted for more than 15% of the North American tourism market that year.
That's one reason why foreign hospitals offer premium services at low prices. They target markets such as that in the U.S.
Countries also invest heavily in infrastructure and quality service to feed that industry. For example, tourism for reproductive services, like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has become very popular. Consequently, some countries, like Turkey, have developed special economic packages to accommodate tourists.
Popular Medical Tourism Treatments
Medical tourism provides practically all the medical services offered by the worldwide industry. Some of the most popular types of treatments, though, include the following:
Medical Tourism Quality
As medical tourism grows around the world, more options join the market. Currently, most opportunities exist in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Middle- and Central America. Businesses can find agencies set up to promote and offer packages for these services. They can, thus, incentivize savings by offering travel along with medical treatment.
The economic importance of the industry means that foreign clinics have invested in quality equipment and personnel. Patients can enjoy beautiful sites as well as professional, English speaking doctors.
In addition, many medical facilities have earned international accreditation. So, they can offer services as good as or even better than those in the U.S., at a fraction of the cost.
To learn more about what is medical tourism and how your business can benefit, talk to a qualified insurance broker. You may find that your insurance can provide quality healthcare and travel too!