What is Medical Tourism?

Medical Tourism is the term used for the practice of travelling for the purposes of medical treatment. In the past, individuals would journey from a less developed country to one with more advanced medical technology. Recently however, as modern medicine has spread around the world, more people are travelling to less developed nations and choosing Medical Tourism as a way to save money.

Cosmetic surgeries, medical surgeries, dental tourism, and fertility tourism are all common types of medical tourism. Some sufferers of rare conditions may elect to travel to a country where the condition is more commonly treated and better understood. Nearly every type of medical procedure is now available to medical tourists. There are some risks associated with medical tourism that people should be made aware of before choosing to travel for a medical procedure. These include blood clots, infections, deep-vein thrombosis, dysentery, poor post-op care, and more. There is a long history of medical tourism that dates back to ancient Greece. Travelers would come from all over the Mediterranean to Epidauria, the domain of Aklepios, the god of healing. In more recent history it was a common practice for invalids to travel to spa towns, hot springs, and sanitariums because of their mineral waters that were thought to be effective as treatment for skin conditions, circulatory problems, arthritis, leprosy, and other conditions.

Why do people choose Medical Tourism?

There are several causes of the recent increased trend of medical tourism. The extremely high cost of medical care, lack of insurance coverage for certain procedures, long wait times for particular operations, increasing affordability and feasibility of international travel, and the rising standards of care and technology in developing countries. In the UK, the most common motive for medical tourism is lengthy wait times, whereas in the United States, the primary reason people choose medical tourism is lower cost of care.

There are a wide number of procedures and types of treatment that are significantly cheaper in developing countries.

Another reason people choose medical tourism is convenience and speed. In Canada, the wait list times for many procedures stretch several months. With medical tourism, an individual can shorten the amount of time they have to wait to get the treatment they need.

The Rising Popularity of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism is growing the fastest in the United States with the amount of people seeking treatment abroad DOUBLING between 2007 and 2008 and US health care providers are estimated to be losing billions of dollars annually to patients deciding to get their treatment abroad instead of in their home country. This increased popularity of medical tourism in the U.S. is despite the lack of advertising and relatively small number of companies offering medical travel services as compared to the United Kingdom. Many patients are forced to explore medical tourism options due to their insurance providers not covering orthopedic surgeries such as knee and hip replacements or the company places restrictions on the choice of clinic, doctor, or type of appliance that may be used. Some of the most popular medical tourism destinations are India, Thailand, Korea, Israel, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Poland, UK, U.S.A., and Australia. Perceptions of medical tourism are shifting. As more people are happy with the outcome of their surgeries performed abroad, the idea of traveling for a medical procedure seems less risky for others. In recent years there has been an increasing amount of mainstream media coverage on the growing trend of medical tourism. There are now several companies who specialize in making the arrangements associated with medical tourism, such that it has now become a multi-billion dollar a year industry. These health tourism providers work with patients to make all of the travel and care arrangements and remove much of the hassle and inconvenience associated with medical care abroad.

How do you begin the process for Medical Tourism?

Generally, most people begin their medical tourism planning by contacting a medical tourism service provider. The medical tourism provider will usually request some more information about the condition to be treated, documentation of medical history, a local doctor’s diagnosis and recommendation. Then the medical tourism provider consults with certified physicians and consultants to advise on the proper course of treatment. After that has been determined, the location of treatment, duration of stay, and cost of operation, travel, and lodging are discussed. Once the patient signs the contract for treatment, they are offered letters of recommendation for a medical visa from the embassy. They are then able to travel to the destination country where they typically are met by their local case executive who makes the final arrangements with the facility and other accommodations. The patient then either remains in the country for healing or returns home. One important factor to keep in mind with medical tourism is international accreditation. International accreditation is a certification process for hospitals, doctors, and care providers where their level of care quality is determined to be of a certain standard. There are a number of different international healthcare accreditation organizations that offer certification for hospitals and care providers in foreign countries. India has the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers, the United States has the Joint Commission International, and the United Kingdom has QHA Trent Accreditation. Australia has the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International and New Zealand has Quality Health New Zealand. In Canada there is Accreditation Canada and France has Haute Autorite de Sante. The United Kingdom also has the United Kingdom Accreditation Forum for accrediting accreditation organizations. Medical tourism is a great way for people to save money or get treatment that would otherwise not be available to them. If you are unsure about being able to afford medical tourism, there may be financing options available to you. You can take the large cost of your medical tourism procedure and accommodations and convert them into an easy to handle, low monthly payment. A Medical Tourism Loan can let you get the procedure you need, when you need it.

Click here to see the Medical Tourism Financing options available to you!