What is Medical Tourism?

Medical Tourism or Health Tourism is the term initially coined by travel agencies and mass media to describe the practice of traveling across international borders to obtain healthcare services. Today medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry that enables people residing in one country to travel to another country to receive medical, dental and surgical care of comparable quality to that available in their home countries for a fraction of the domestic cost. In addition, patients may choose to travel abroad because certain procedures are not available in their home countries, or because the wait is too long (e.g. Canadian cancer patients traveling across the border to the U.S.).

Contrary to popular belief, the concept of medical tourism is not a novel one. The first recorded instance of medical tourism dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrims traveled from all over the Mediterranean to the small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria. Also, Americans have been engaged in medical tourism, although they may not have called it that way. For decades, many Americans have traveled to such acclaimed medical institutions as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, MD Anderson Hospital in Texas, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.

Until recently, on the international scale, patient flow was mainly from less developed countries to developed countries. And not surprisingly, medical tourism to developed countries was a prerogative of the rich and the elite in the developing world. Recently, however, the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and long wait times for certain procedures, combined with the growing ease and affordability of international travel and tremendous improvements in both technology and standards of medical care in many countries began to change the face of medical tourism. In fact, the mechanism behind the growth of medical tourism was explained by Adam Smith in his monumental work The Wealth of Nations in 1776. According to Adam Smith, a country will “specialize in the manufacture and export of products [services] that can be produced most efficiently in that country.” Essentially, when we talk about medical tourism we are simply talking about outsourcing in the healthcare sector.

What have been the driving forces of this industry’s growth and why is medical tourism capturing so much attention in the media lately? In no particular order, below are the major factors exerting influence on the US society and fueling the growth of this industry:

  • Increasingly unsustainable health care costs in the U.S.
  • A growing number of Americans under the age of 65 who are uninsured or underinsured
  • Increasing life expectancy and an aging population
  • Rapidly rising insurance premiums paid by employers who are forced to pass a portion of those costs on to employees

It is estimated that in 2007 total spending on healthcare reached 2.4 trillion dollars. Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18% of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007. This is a 4.9% increase from 2006. Moreover, some studies indicate that as many as 29% of people who had health insurance were “underinsured” with coverage so meager they were often forced to postpone medical care because of costs. In addition, as many as 120 million Americans lack dental coverage. Other sources purport that this number may be as high as 120 million.

Safety and quality is our first priority! We are almost certain that you have a burning question whether treatments in developing countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Columbia are safe. So that you don’t lose your interest, here is a statistic from World Health Organization. In response to US providers who may tell you that all care in other countries is dangerous, we encourage you to ask them why the World Health Organization ranks the US healthcare system at number 37 globally, after Costa Rica, Columbia, and Chile? It’s possible to get excellent care overseas, provided patients do their homework or allow MedVacation to do that for them.

We would like to mention medical tourists’ satisfaction with services. According to results of the patient survey carried out by the Medical Tourism Association, when asked “How would you rate the hospital you received medical care at?” 70.7% responded “Excellent,” while 26.8% stated “Very Good.” Moreover, 63.4% of respondents indicated that they felt their overall medical experience was “better than it would have been in the USA, while 36.4% of respondents stated their experiences were “equal to what it would have been in the USA.”

www.theMedVacation.com

Advertisements