What Is Driving the Growth in Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism, also referred to as international medical migration, patient migration and medical travel, is a new term but not a new idea. A market driven industry, Medical Tourism is shaped by the complex interactions of myriad medical, economic, social and political forces. Medical tourists embark on worldwide journeys for health care to lower costs, decrease wait times, and access medical services that aren’t available in their home country.

For patients from countries where a governmental health care system regulates access to health care, the reason to leave the local market is the desire to have timely treatment, circumventing delays associated with long waiting lists. Because national health programs and some insurance programs do not fund cosmetic surgery and similar types of services, patients seeking these services are driven to pursue medical tourism. Patients also travel to medical tourism destinations for procedures that are not available in their own countries. For example, stem cell therapy, unobtainable by many patients in industrialized countries, is available in the medical tourism marketplace. The now deceased Charlie’s Angels star, Farah Fawcett, struggled to find a cure for cancer three years ago, which ultimately took her to Germany for a unique procedure that was not available in the United States.

Resources are insufficient for people to comfortably purchase care in their local market, but adequate for them to buy care in lower-cost foreign facilities. An additional benefit is that another country provides privacy and confidentiality for patients undergoing plastic surgery, sex change procedures and drug rehabilitation; their medical records cannot be viewed by the myriad parties who can access these documents in the United States.

While much has been written about medical tourism and its impacts and ethics, little research has been conducted to quantify the reasons that consumers participate in it.

qSample conducted a study to target a wide range of global consumers on their experiences and consideration of medical tourism. The study used an international sample of potential medical tourists with an estimated 575 participants. Download the full white paper here.

by Rudly Raphael

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