Medical tourism: basic information

Medical tourism has become one of the modern fields of medicine when citizens of one country travel into another to get medical services. 

For the last decade, medical trips, which are associated with the globalization of the modern world population, has become a global trend and it continues to grow. The volume of investments invested in this industry is increasing annually. And the latest studies have affirmed that the growth of the market will be preserved — with a 25% increase every year in the next 10 years. Today’s global medical tourism market is estimated at $439 billion and in 2025 it might reach over $3 trillion.

Patients need to meet

Some tourists prefer to mix traveling and improving themselves, others seek treatment abroad as they have no choice. The most crucial factors remain quality and price.

  • Affordable offers: Savings on medical assistance can range from 30% to 85% both for lifesaving procedures and treatments and aesthetic services. For example, Da Vinci prostatectomy is about $33,000 in Spain and only $14,000 in the Czech Republic. Or it’s a typical case for Americans to go to Mexico or Costa Rica to have dental care which is not covered by their insurance and much more cheaper in neighboring countries.  
  • Medical solutions: Patients in developing countries with low levels of healthcare systems look for advanced medical solutions in more developed countries as it’s the only hope to get an appropriate diagnosis and a chance for recovery. Most often they seek safe and effective cancer treatment, heart surgery, orthopedics, and neurosurgery. The international accreditations as JCI, ISO, ones issued by local authorities and international specialized associations ensure that a patient gets safe and high-quality medical assistance. 
  • Ethical issues: Health legislations in different countries vary and if some procedures are severely prohibited in one country it can be allowed in others. In particular, this refers to the ambiguous perception of transplantation. For example, dialysis patients with diabetes mellitus living in countries where transplantation is prohibited, go to places where a kidney transplant is legitimate. The same story is about embryonic stem cells which are legal only in very few countries.

Among other factors — security of the country of residence, location and relative logistics costs, cultural proximity and lack of a language barrier, development of tourism infrastructure. 

Top destinations

According to data presented in Bookimed company, the most popular medical tourism destinations are Thailand, Turkey, India, South Korea, Germany. They attract international tourists with a well-developed network of medical institutions accredited by international associations, cutting-edge technology, excellent service, and affordable prices. And the numbers say it all:

  • The World Health Organisation reports that Thailand receives around 1.5 million medical tourists per year. Most demanded specialties are plastic surgery, dentistry, delivery services.
  • Turkey expects to host 1 million medical visitors until the end of 2019 and up to 2 million by 2023. Their top choices are treatments of oncological, neurosurgical, and hematology oncological conditions. 
  • India serves 460,000 international patients. Top specialties are transplantology, hematology oncology, and orthopedics.

Instead of summary

The idea of borderless healthcare is so exciting and promising that governments and private companies make significant investments in building medical tourism in both developed and developing countries, medical science, technical base, medical infrastructure, and brightest doctors headhunting. The investments and patient flow as well as the cost of the market, in general, accelerates the competition between medical facilities and push world medicine to flourish. Will patients benefit from it? Will see.