The advancement in medical technology with the globalization of capital funding has led to the enhancement of international healthcare services. Medical tourism refers to the activity in which the patients travel across the country with the purpose of getting better treatment and health.
Types of Medical Tourism
There are in general three types of medical tourism:
Inbound: This type of medical tourism occurs when patients travel from a foreign country to the home country to receive medical treatment.
Outbound: This type involves patients traveling from the home country to a foreign country to a foreign country in search of medical care.
Domestic or Intrabound: This type refers to the patients traveling to another part of their own country to receive medical care. This type involves no international travel.
Range of Medical Treatment Services
The medical tourism market is majorly inclined towards a few particular medical treatments. These include Orthopedics, Dental/Dentistry, Cancer Treatments (Oncology), Cosmetic/Plastic Surgery, Cardiology (Heart Surgery), Stem Cell Therapy, Bariatric Surgery (Weight Loss Surgery), Eye Surgery (Ophthalmology), Fertility Treatment, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), Organ Transplants, Neurology, Rehabilitation, General Diagnostics and Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT).
Factors Affecting Medical Tourism
Medical tourism is considerably affected by a number of factors. Some of these include the following:
Geographical factors: One of the major factors influencing medical tourists is the proximity of the geographical area where the patient will receive the medical treatment. Mostly people tend to go to countries which are adjacent to their own, rather than going to a country farther away.
Shared history: The travel patterns are evident clearly when one searches for it. Patients prefer going to nations which possess a shared history with their own. For instance, US and UK patients prefer going to commonwealth countries such as India for treatment, while there is significant cross-border medical travel among the former USSR states.
Four Drivers: A rise in medical tourism relates to four major drivers. These are availability, familiarity, quality and cost. Moreover, bio-ethical legislation gains relevance in some of the cases. For example, some treatments could be considered illegal in the patient’s home country, but accepted as a legal procedure in the destination country.
Demand and Currency Fluctuations: The demand for medical tourism may not be stable. The medical tourism industry depends on several external and economic factors including currency exchange rates and consumer preferences. The fluctuations in currency values may make some destinations less attractive to the consumers. The concerns relating to traveling and the safety in certain parts of the world may force the patients to explore other, more obscure markets. It is noticeable that worsening economic conditions of the patients’ originating countries affect medical tourism. For instance, the increase in US healthcare expenses have evoked an ever-increasing number of US citizens to travel abroad to seek medical treatment.
Other factors: The better quality of treatment at the destination country, quicker treatment, the number of specialists available, less waiting time and the opportunity to visit a foreign country also play a major role in medical tourism.
The ever-changing technological and economic conditions of the global medical tourism industry have triggered the creation of a number of opportunities for both patients as well as businesses.
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