Medical tourism is the direct product of the widespread globalization of healthcare. The increased integration of global economies and cultures has resulted in the extensive circulation of products and services between countries. Several industries, including the healthcare sector, have expanded their horizons to benefit from the global market. This in turn, has created a niche segment of the healthcare industry where patients travel across the globe to avail healthcare and medical services.
‘Medical tourism’ is a term interchangeable with Global healthcare, Medical travel, Healthcare travel and Health tourism. However, each of these terms can be used to define specific segments of the global healthcare industry. The definitions in the next section should help clear out the confusing terminology.
Medical tourism can also be referred to as the growing global industry of healthcare providers, doctors, clinics and hospitals who are marketing themselves to overseas patients. Medical tourism provides a range of healthcare benefits and options to individuals which will be highlighted later on in this chapter.
The medical tourism sector is rapidly developing and is changing the way people, insurance companies and governments look at healthcare options for its citizens. The growth of the industry will increasingly have an impact on individuals and healthcare budgets as governments, health insurance companies and individuals continue to explore different ways to access high quality, low cost treatment.
Popular elective medical services include knee or hip joint replacements, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery and dental surgery. Patients in need of emergency procedures are also attracted to this concept as certain countries have long waiting times for certain medical services, while medical tourism destinations provide quality healthcare and eliminate availability issues. To read more details on common medical tourism procedures, we encourage you to read the ‘Medical tourism procedure’ guidebook which provides all the information a patient would need.
Medical tourism fills a valuable niche that is desperately needed in countries with bureaucratically flawed or unaffordable healthcare. This industry looks set to expand at an escalating pace over the next decade as more and more people begin to trust the quality and see the advantages of having their surgery performed in developing countries that provide quality healthcare.
This chapter explains what medical tourism is in all its different manifestations and the advantages and disadvantages of travelling abroad for medical treatment.