Medical tourism has gained prominence in recent years. Patients today are more aware and comfortable about the medical tourism concept. The search for the right treatment is taking thousands of patients to different destinations around the globe. Medical tourism as a concept has evolved over recent years. There are two primary considerations for every patient when they embark on this journey, One, is to get the right treatment at best hospitals and under expert guidance. And the second, is the cost of treatment. Managing these two points leads to an effective medical tour.
Historically, the best medical care and treatments were available in developed nations such as America, Canada, Korea, UK, Japan, etc. These countries were the prime movers for high quality treatment and cutting edge technologies. However, in the last few decades other countries have done catching up with these developed countries. These countries which include India, South Africa, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand today are the prime hubs of medical tourism. The success of these countries can be attributed to the fact that these countries invested heavily in human capital in the form of doctors, nurses, technicians who then gained the experience in the developed countries and after few decades abroad came back to setup their own hospitals. This gave a push to private investment in healthcare and initiated growth of the health industry.
The other major advantage was the “cost” associated with it. This cost was extremely low when compared to other developed countries. The cost was in fact less than 70% in many cases. This has proven to be an attraction to patients globally from developed and developing countries alike. It is an attractive proposition when you get the same treatment, same care but at 70% less cost. Patients are willing to take try this proposition. And this can be seen from the thousands of patients who travel to different destination every day.
Today, we define medical tourism as a branch of tourism which involves treatment/surgery in the tour. Patients combine their medical treatment with vacations post treatment. The primary mover of these tours is treatment and vacationing/leisure is the secondary mover. Patients today have the luxury of technology, internet to help them find the destination of their choice, cost effective treatment packages, interact with other fellow patients and even plan their whole tour without any outside help. There is today a whole ecosystem which includes hospitals, patients, doctors, medical tourism companies, interpreters and government agencies who play an important role in the working of medical tourism as whole.
The 4 main factors which define a medical tourism are
Any patient travelling abroad for treatment will always consider these four parameters broadly. Destination is of primary importance because where to get treatment has a lot of secondary questions attached to it. You may consider X location as your treatment destination but you’ll always look for factors such as climate, people, food, ease of travel, documentation etc. to take a conclusive decision.
Similarly, cost of treatment is also very high on a patient’s mind. Let us not forget that “cost” is central to the whole idea of medical tourism. If cost was not a factor in decision making then patients wouldn’t not even thought about travelling abroad from their home country. Therefore, patients do consider the cost of treatment and other costs involved during the whole medical tour.
Who’ll be treating them and what’s their experience is also an important factor for patients. Because after all everyone wants the best doctors to treat them. In fact, cost comes secondary when such decisions are being made.
The other major consideration for patients is the type of medical technology used for treatment. Everyone wants to be treated through the best available technology. There is a belief that the latest technology will be better for them. Therefore, a patient will consider the type of technology being used.
Governments have understood the value of medical tourism and are taking steps to ensure that this new industry grows through proper policymaking and regulatory oversight. On the other hand patient advocacy groups have also been formed which take care of patient rights when they’re travelling abroad. The private hospitals have meanwhile gone for certifications and accreditations to ensure they meet quality standards. Medical tourism companies have gone for training, certification and compliances to ensure they play their role effectively.
What has become clearer with each passing day is that medical tourism is here to stay and has become one of the most preferred treatment option for patients. Getting treatment abroad is no longer limited to wealthy or important people only. Instead all patients can now avail the option of getting treatment abroad. Medical tourism has played a vital role in connecting patients, doctors and hospitals from different regions of the world and befitted thousands of patients in the last few decades. And it will continue to play this important role in the treatment journey of a patient.