Medical Tourism is quite a self-defining term. To explain it broadly before we go into specifics, medical tourism means traveling to some other location or place to avail medical facilities and services. Several causes fuel medical tourism in our modern world.
Medical Tourism and Medical Value Travel
Medical Value Travel takes a lion’s share in Medical Tourism numbers and revenue. This particular term defines the phenomenon of patients traveling from a developed nation to other parts of the world for medical care. The motivating factor behind such movement is usually a desire to get treatment at a lower and more favorable cost.
There is also a reverse flow as people from underdeveloped countries, or from countries that lack in sufficient healthcare, travel to other parts of the world for medical support.
In some cases, people travel to other countries to get medical procedures that are unwelcome or denied in their home countries.
To be clear, Medical Tourism does not essentially imply cross-border travel or globetrotting. It could as simply mean traveling to a different region or state in your home country, owing to a number of factors both personal, and medical. One could decide to go to a different region looking for better facilities, the fame of a particular institution and surgeon, or for a personal reason like being together with friends and family.
Dissecting the ancient roots of Medical Tourism
While many believe medical tourism to be a new and modern concept, it is in fact a tradition that is as ancient as tourism itself. Before traveling to another country to get a surgery for economic reasons became fashionable, physicians asked people suffering with various ailments to travel to towns and hamlets like the Belgian town of Spa or even Bath in England where natural hot or cold water springs sprouted.
Traveling to remote monasteries where monks used rare herbs to cure specific ailments, and pilgrimage spots like Lourdes in France (renowned as places of healing) were the most common established practices.
Technology and affordability make Medical Tourism a success
With the progress in modern medicine, healing and recovering from ailments of the body isn’t so much a matter of faith as it is of having access to the finest yet the most affordable medical facilities. The big buzzword one needs to consider in terms of healthcare these days is “affordability.”
In some countries, even the basic surgeries could mean huge bills to a patient. While in second or third world countries, the same surgery costs much less despite any major difference in the quality of care provided by hospitals in the two respective nations. That is what, in a nutshell, provides the required impetus to the medical tourism industry.
Why Medical Tourism is a big deal in the modern world
For many of us, the very notion of traveling to a different country for medical treatment might sound riskier than traveling there to explore the local haute cuisine. While the risks associated with traveling to another country and placing your health in the hands of a total stranger are real, patients with limited means should not ignore them altogether.
Key drivers of Medical Tourism
A large chunk of medical tourists includes retirees and pensioners. This part of the population essentially lives on their life’s savings, pensions and whatever investments they have made. Government sponsored healthcare for this section of the society often doesn’t cover expensive surgeries and experimental therapies. For example, a heart valve replacement in the US costs $160,000 while the same surgery at a super specialty hospital in Thailand costs roughly $10,000. For a pensioner, this means a huge saving.
Another section that finds medical tourism rather attractive includes patients traveling out of the country for nonessential or cosmetic procedures. In the US, a simple breast augmentation procedure could cost around $10,000 plus the cost of postoperative care. Getting the same surgery in India would cost around $2450 and the postoperative care would cost lesser given the exchange rate.
Non-personnel related factors also drives the multi-billion dollar global medical tourism industry.The drug and medical care-regulating agency of a country may not approve some new procedure or therapy. The FDA in the US, for example, was quite reluctant to approve hip resurfacing surgery until some years ago. Hence, anyone who wanted to enjoy the benefits of this surgical process needed to travel out of the country.
Hospitals and medical facilities in many popular medical tourism destinations now flaunt top-notch standards when it comes to offering the highest level of care, treatment and surgeries to patients.
In essence, the concept of medical tourism is exactly what it sounds like – it is essentially tourism with medical treatments at discount prices and excellent care. So when you travel to a South East Asian country to get a knee replacement, the overall cost of the trip will include you expenses on travel, surgery, postoperative care, necessary physical therapies, sightseeing and souvenir shopping. Even so, it is likely to cost an average American patient less than the same surgery and post-surgical care would cost in a local facility.