Though a newly coined word- “medical tourism”- the concept has existed for quite a while now. Alternately known as health tourism or medical travel, medical tourism implies the act of traveling overseas in a bid to secure healthcare. Those of you all, who didn’t know about this fast evolving industry, should note that it has been recognized as a national industry by over fifty countries. Travelers generally cross borders to address complex health conditions including cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, joint replacement and alternative treatments. It can be a personal healthcare choice whereby they travel to other countries from their hometowns to obtain innovative medical treatments (desired by them), which are not available in their own countries. The business is actually driven by less restrictive policies, which in turn, have facilitated its fast growth. The phenomenon is particularly promoted in countries which have unique marketing strategies in place.
In spite of its fast growth, the industry has not been able to escape its fair share of controversies as well. At the onset, this might get you thinking. How can traveling abroad for medical purposes be possibly mired in controversies? Read on to find out.
Medical Tourism: Controversy
One of the major criticisms leveled against this industry is the fact that the health care providers allegedly practice outside their areas of expertise or resort to lower standards of care. There are specialty markets within the industry including suicide and reproductive tourism. It has been maintained that consumers often end up taking advantage of these markets. As such, countries which have these niche businesses within the medical tourism industry are reassessing their policies big time.
The Countries where this industry is flourishing
While discussing the prospect of healthcare tourism, it’s essential to throw light on the Medical treatments in Israel, Mexico, Thailand and India. Yes, while the United States has emerged as the top rated overseas destination for medical trippers, the aforementioned countries are clearly under the radar for the fast advent of the industry there. While affluent patients with universal coverage seek world class facilities, easily securable in the United States of America, those with inadequate insurance policies in America might have to test the lesser expensive foreign medical equipment. They can jolly well turn to the JCI accredited lesser expensive clinics in India, Thailand and Mexico. JCI or Joint Commission International refers to an accreditation that assigns hospitals to scale American standards for clinical care.
Patients generally traverse boundaries and come to this country for eye surgery, heart surgery and bone marrow transplant. The nation presently has 18 JCI hospitals and several physicians, hailing from medical schools in the USA and Canada. Another major factor drawing medical tourists here is the presence of a huge group of English speaking people, who make communication easier.
Known for its specialties like Natural Therapies and Infertility treatments, Israel has the ultimate edge over most of the countries as far as global cultural connections are concerned. There are many doctors trained in the West, who act as a major draw for medical tourists from Canada and America.
This country is particularly noted for weight loss surgeries as well as dental work. There are around 9 JCI hospitals and Americans especially come to this country for raking in substantial savings for uninsured treatments. Weight loss treatment is mostly an uncovered treatment because it’s still viewed as a cosmetic surgery there.
We can just hope that more countries in future will join the “health tourism” bandwagon soon. With the less restrictive policies facing flak from many a quarter, it should be remembered that this is one of the reasons that the industry is flourishing altogether.