What is Medical Tourism? A Guide to Making the Decision

What is Medical Tourism
  • October 27, 2022
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If you’ve ever struggled to afford healthcare services or experienced difficulties finding a doctor that accepts your insurance in your hometown, then you understand the issues with accessing healthcare as a patient. In response to rising costs and limited access to affordable care, medical tourism has become a popular solution for many people. 

As the name implies, medical tourism is the practice of traveling outside of one’s home country for medical procedures that may be less expensive or have better results than local options. 

According to Statista, the global medical tourism market was valued at $19 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow by 25% annually until 2022. In this blog post, we will offer an introduction to what Medical Tourism is and some factors to consider when deciding if it’s right for you.

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is tourism for medical care. It involves traveling to another country for healthcare treatment, such as surgery or diagnostic services, that is not readily available in one’s home country. The Global Healthcare Travel Index (GHTC) estimates that about one in five people will travel for healthcare in their lifetimes. Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon. People have been traveling to other countries for medical care for decades, but it has only recently become a popular industry.

Types of Medical Tourism

There are many types of medical tourism. It can be helpful to understand each category of medical tourism so that you can determine which options are best for your needs.

– Surgery Tourism – Surgery tourism is when a patient travels to another country for surgery. This is often done for lower costs, greater availability of certain surgeries, and/or more favourable outcomes. Surgery tourism usually refers to elective surgeries, such as plastic surgery, dental implants, and cosmetic procedures, but it can also involve medical procedures such as bariatric surgery.

– Medical Vacation – A medical vacation is a vacation that includes some form of medical treatment like a spa treatment or laser treatment. It could also mean getting a medical procedure such as dental work, plastic surgery, or bariatric surgery while on vacation.

– Medical Retreats – Medical retreats are more like vacations where medical procedures take place. Retreats are often wellness retreats, where guests come to improve their overall health and well-being. A medical retreat is when a guest comes to a retreat to receive a medical procedure. Medical retreats can include procedures such as bariatric surgery, knee or joint replacement surgery, fertility treatments, and more.

– Medical Immersion – Medical Immersion is when a patient is treated like a local patient. They are treated at the same hospital and by the same doctors, but they are billed like a tourist. For example, a patient may be treated like a local patient, but at a lower cost than local patients would pay.

– Medical Study Tours – Medical study tours are when medical students travel to another country to learn more about different medical systems and procedures. Students often tour areas they may not be able to access in the United States.

Benefits of Medical Tourism

– Patient Access to Healthcare – Access to healthcare is the main reason why people travel for medical care. Since the healthcare system varies by country, there are cases in which patients are better served by medical tourism.

– Affordability – Healthcare costs continue to rise, and many people are struggling to afford the care they need. Medical tourism offers patients the opportunity to save money on necessary procedures.

– Experiences – Many people travel for fun, and medical tourism gives patients the chance to combine their travel experience with a necessary procedure.

– Qualified Doctors – Just like there are differences in the healthcare system from country to country, there are also differences in the qualifications of doctors. In some cases, patients may be better served by doctors in a different country.

Drawbacks of Medical Tourism

– Lack of Access to Local Support – When people travel for medical care, they often travel alone. In this situation, patients may not have access to the support system of friends and family that many people rely on during a medical crisis.

– Potential Inability to Receive Travel Insurance – While some insurance companies have begun to include benefits for medical tourism, others still refuse to cover treatment outside the country.

– Lack of Language and Cultural Barriers – Some patients may find that treating doctors in a foreign country are less familiar with their medical history. This can lead to misdiagnosis or the potential for miscommunication.

– Lack of Local Medical Standards and Regulations – While some countries have very strict policies about the safety and sterilization of medical equipment, others do not. This can pose a threat to patients who choose to travel for medical care.

How to Make the Decision to Travel for Healthcare

Before you make the decision to travel for healthcare, there are some important factors to consider. These include the cost of your procedure, the location of your procedure, and the quality of care in your destination country. When making your decision, be sure to select a medical tourist provider like TLC that is accredited with International certifications. These organizations verify that medical tourism companies are safe and reliable.

Bottom line

Medical tourism has become a popular option for many people looking for lower costs or better results for necessary procedures. While there are many benefits to traveling for medical care, there are also some drawbacks. To make an informed decision about travel for healthcare, it is important to consider the cost of your procedure, the quality of care in your destination country, and the location of your procedure.