Medical Tourism is commonly defined as travelling to another country with the intention of undergoing some kind of medical treatment, whether that be receiving oncological care in North America, IVF in Spain, dentistry work in Budapest or Hair Transplant Istanbul. The number of people making trips to receive a procedure is on the rise, with the Telegraph reporting on the state of British healthcare, “The number of people […] has increased from 48,000 in 2014 to 144,000 in 2016.” The worldwide figure has only increased in the last three years, following a very similar pattern.
Cosmetic surgery, in particular, is experiencing the most fluctuation and experts cite this as being a result of changing body trends and improved equipment that makes surgery quicker, easier and often less invasive. In contrast, oncological care is anticipated to be the sector that experiences the most growth in the coming years, due to the rising occurrence of cancer cases across the world.
With the rise in Medical Tourism predominantly being in the cosmetic, dental and weight-loss surgery treatments and with the continued stigma around ‘non-essential’ procedures, patients often want to mask their procedure with a holiday and spend the recovery period on a beach or in a luxury hotel.
The Financial Benefits
Medical Tourism combines the comforts and requirements of quality hospitality with healthcare standards; the line between patients and customers has been blurred to a whole new extent. Medical Tourism is essentially a business, with the most profitable locations for clinics being in emerging economies for the most rudimentary reasons. Organizing quality accommodation in line with the standard of healthcare a patient expects to receive is cheaper in developing countries whose economies are open to foreign investment and growth. This allows clinics to bill clients at a lower price point without compromising on standards of service.
The Medical Tourism industry is a valuable one for any developing country. Facilitating a successful medical clinic that accepts international patients and produces a quality revenue will be improving the healthcare standards of that country, ultimately moving the destination up on the global Quality Of life Index and encouraging further foreign investment. It becomes a perpetuated and beneficial cycle.
However, from the perspective of a consumer, clinics and treatments centers worldwide are becoming much more accessible with the plummeting price of international flights. The frequency and availability of budget airlines allow patients to nip across the continent for a non-invasive procedure on a Friday and be back at work on Monday without damaging the bank balance too much. This kind of accessibility has encouraged many travellers to make their next city break to a medical tourism destination.
Medical Tourism is largely pegged as a young person’s venture. This opinion is largely propagated by the UK tabloid’s unfair coverage of young persons’ treatments gone wrong. However, the rising population and particularly as the baby boomer generation enters their greying years, national healthcare systems in countries such as the United Kingdom are beginning to strain. The World Healthcare Organisation reports that the population of over 60 years of age is expected to rise to 15% in 2050. This is making people who are experiencing time-sensitive issues panic and seek treatment abroad, particularly for those seeking specialist care.
Medical Tourism is an industry that continues to enjoy growth. Overall, there does seem to be a correlation between those seeking cosmetic or non-essential procedures and cheaper costs, whilst travelling for emergency or more complicated treatment is associated with the quality of service available in the home country. As we expect to live longer, it will be interesting to see the trends in medical tourism evolve. Will we want to look younger and thinner for longer? Or will our focus be on receiving the best possible care wherever it is in the world?