Benefits of Medical Tourism
As the technology, doctor training and standards of healthcare in developing countries has vastly improved in recent years, more and more people are looking at medical tourism as an attractive solution to their health problems. The popularity of medical tourism can be directly traced to the incredibly high costs of healthcare and long wait periods for some procedures in many countries.
Medical tourism is not a new idea. Ancient Greek pilgrims used to travel to a small town called Epidauria for treatment. This area was considered the sanctuary of Asklepios, the god of healing, and probably the first medical tourism destination. Spa towns were also considered medical travel destinations, especially in 18th century England, where patients believed the healing waters of some areas could treat gout, bronchitis and other conditions. Today, Asian countries such as India, Thailand and Malaysia are leading the way in the medical tourism industry.
Medical tourists come from all over the world, but most are citizens of Western nations such as the United States, Britain, Europe, the Middle East and Japan. The most obvious benefit for medical tourists is the dramatic savings in cost. A coronary artery bypass at Thailand’s Bumrungrad Hospital costs around one-tenth of what it does in the United States. Even more mundane procedures such as extreme dental work can be a fraction of the cost in countries such as Thailand.
Another major benefit is the speed at which some surgical procedures can be completed. The waiting period for a hip replacement in Britain, for example, can be up to a year or more. A patient can fly to India, Thailand, Malaysia or the Philippines and have the procedure done almost immediately. Since most of the doctors and surgeons in medical tourism destinations have been well-trained internationally, patients can expect quality healthcare at the reputable institutions.
Insurance is another factor in the decision to choose a foreign country for a medical procedure. Some orthopaedic operations, especially knee and hip replacements, are often not covered by health insurance. As a result, orthopaedic surgery has emerged as one of the main treatments performed overseas due to the low cost and freedom to choose where to have the surgery performed.
People who cannot afford health insurance simply have no choice but to travel abroad for an expensive medical procedure. With an estimated 45 million Americans currently uninsured, this creates a huge market for people needing affordable healthcare.
A final benefit is the pleasure of adding some travel and adventure to your medical needs. For many medical tourists, a trip to Thailand or India will be a first. A big component of the medical tourism industry is the relaxing vacation period following the medical procedure. Medical tourism destinations promote this aspect just as much as the quality and cost of their healthcare.
In Thailand, patients can lounge on one of the country’s many beautiful beaches during their recovery, while India offers some amazing spa resorts where luxury and pampering is the focus. Up-and-coming South Africa even promotes wildlife safaris as part of its medical tourism packages.