Medical Tourism: A Global Market on the Rise

There was a time when seeking medical treatment abroad was unattainable for most. Traveling to another country was an expensive business, while those who could afford to travel were presented with a game of roulette when it came to the quality of care and treatment on offer. Today, things are very different.

Medical Tourism – as it has become known – has been on the rise for a number of years now and projected figures suggest this growth isn't about to decrease anytime soon. Some surveys report that the market is set to more than double over the next few years, while others suggest the number of outbound US patients, for example, will top 15 million by 2016, an increase of 200 percent compared to 2009.

Why Is Global Medical Tourism On the Rise?

There are a number of circumstances that may lead a patient to seek out care abroad. These can be broadly separated into two groups - conditions that propel a person to look elsewhere and those that attract that same person away.

Circumstances that "force" people away from their native country include:

  • Insufficient standards of care: this is particularly common in countries with health care services that are considered "developing". For example, Russia and many of the states that made up the former USSR have a high number of outbound patients.
  • Long waiting lists: for countries that have limited spaces on their surgery lists, the wait for treatment can simply be too long. This is a common reason cited by medical tourists from the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • High cost of medical care: for those that have to pay, treatment can be very costly, particularly for surgery and other types of care not included in an insurance policy. Couple this with the promise of cheaper care abroad, and you have one very good reason to get on a plane.

Attractive features that entice patients abroad include:

  • Cheaper costs: it has been established that some countries offer quality treatment much cheaper than one's native country, even when you factor in travel and accommodation.
  • Vacation time: when it comes to recuperation, relaxing in an exotic location is more than a little appealing. Many patients are electing the likes of Israel, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and Turkey to convalesce in.
  • All-in-one strategies: more and more countries are realizing the potential of the Medical Tourism market and setting-up specialist travel agents that arrange for treatment as well as accommodation and tourism services. It doesn't stop with travel agents either. Most medical institutions are creating whole international treatment departments aimed at foreign citizens only.

Ensuring the Best Treatment

Picking a health care provider is a tricky yet important task, and it's vital to check the health care provider's credentials.

The Joint Commission International (JCI), an arm of the organization that accredits American hospitals participating in Medicare, has been continuously evaluating and accrediting hospitals around the world. A medical establishment achieving the JCI Accreditation represents the apex of patient safety and quality care. Patients and fellow health care organizations recognize this symbol as a testament to the medical establishment commitment to providing the highest quality care.

When it comes to a thorough check, it's recommended that any future patients pay close attention to previous testimonials and any other information available. The internet is, of course, a great source for such material.

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