Medical tourism encompasses the terms medical travel, global healthcare, and health tourism, and describes the practice of people traveling to receive medical treatment, whether necessary or elective. Alternatively, it also refers to the travel of health care providers to deliver healthcare to people in other countries. Medical tourism is becoming an increasingly popular practice among those who wish to have options when it comes to their healthcare. The services offered in a medical tourism setting are almost limitless and could include heart surgery, join replacement surgery, cosmetic surgery, dental surgery, and even in vitro fertilization. Furthermore, medical tourism can involve alternative treatments, psychiatry, and convalescent care. Those concerned about the quality of care in regard to medical tourism can look to the U.S.-based Joint Commission International, among other companies, which inspects and accredits healthcare facilities outside of U.S. Borders. Savvy patients will look for a facility or hospital that is accredited by a respected source when considering treatment abroad.
Interestingly, medical tourism is not as nouveau as many believe. While it has certainly experienced an increase in popularity in recent years, the concept of traveling for healthcare dates back many centuries. The ancient Greeks were known to travel to a territory called Epidauria, in the Saronic Gulf of the Mediterranean, to seek healing from the god Asklepios. Even early spas can, in retrospect, be called medical tourism. In the 1700s, people from all around England traveled to the small village of Bath to partake in the supposed healing waters of the natural mineral springs. Americans, as well as citizens of other First World countries such as Europe, Japan, Canada, and the Middle East are opting to seek medical treatment outside of their own borders. In 2007, it is estimated that approximately 750,000 Americans sought medical treatment abroad, and that number was projected to double in 2008.
Medical tourism continues to increase in popularity because of the many benefits that are associated with receiving medical treatment abroad. The primary benefits of medical tourism include 陪診服務 cost, convenience, and the ability to combine travel to exotic locals with high-quality medical treatment. Those who reside in countries with lower health standards participate in medical tourism as a means to receive medical treatment that is superior to what is available at home. However, those from First World countries are more likely to travel for medical reasons. It is generally cited that people from countries such as the U.S., Great Britain, and Canada generally possess more wealth; that coupled with their high expectations of healthcare in general, leads First World citizens to seek out alternative options, whether on the surgery table or the psychiatrist’s couch.
The primary reason that people elect to receive medical treatment abroad is cost. Even those with insurance may opt to travel for medical care, especially when the entire cost of the trip, including treatment, can be accomplished for far less than the cost of an insurance deductible. Those savings, coupled with the promise of a vacation to a far-off land, make medical tourism an attractive incentive to many. While it is normal to save as much as 50% on overall costs, in some cases the savings can be substantially more. Those traveling to India and Costa Rica can expect to save as much as 80-90% overall on some treatments when compared to the costs in North America or the British Isles. Medical tourists traveling to Thailand for heart surgery can expect to pay only 20% of what they would pay in the United States. Knee and hip replacement surgeries can cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50, 000 in the United States, but can cost as little as $5000 in countries like Columbia and India.
While the cost alone is certainly enough to get the attention of many people disillusioned with healthcare, there are other reasons that prompt people to grab their passports and head out on a dual-purpose journey. For many, convenience and speed are among the most-cited reasons for health travel. While there are many benefits to public healthcare, such as the system that is operated in Canada, a severe downside is the wait time that is often required for non-emergency care. To many, waiting six months for a hip replacement surgery is not only ludicrous, it’s not an option. This is especially true considering that it is possible to travel to a medical tourism destination and receive a new hip in the matter of days or weeks. For those who cannot, or are not willing to, wait for health care, medical tourism is an increasingly attractive option.