Medical tourism can be defined as the provision for patients to travel on the high seas in search of faster, more cost-effective and safer medical and surgical procedures. A combination of several different factors has led many people from industrialized countries to migrate for high-quality medical treatment. The various reasons are the cost problems, the ease and affordability of international travel, the long frustrating queues in many nations, and, above all, the improvement of technological standards of health care in many countries of the world. Both the health sector and the tourism industry help facilitate the process in these countries.
The concept of medical tourism actually dates back to ancient Greece, where pilgrims and patients from across the Mediterranean came to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asklepios, in Epidaurus. In the 18th century, wealthy Europeans in Germany traveled to Mediterranean spas. The 21st century has taken the medical tourism industry beyond the wealthy and desperate by providing low-cost transportation and treatment services. Leisure, fun and relaxation, along with associated medical care, have made medical tourism a common form of vacation.
Medical tourism presents an opportunity for hospitals to tap into the potential of the international healthcare market and eventually tap into their businesses. The advancement of medical technology, the increase in transportation facilities, and the need for immediate quality health care have encouraged health care providers to go global. Medical tourists travel long distances to search for world-class doctors and hospitals. Healthcare providers around the world are investing to acquire the latest technology and venture into the latest medical research areas. They even provide lucrative non-medical services such as hospitality services, spa facilities, and pick-up services to facilitate the stay and treatment of their international clientele.
One important reason medical tourism is attractive to many people is that it offers medical treatments at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, public health systems in developed countries are overloaded and traveling to foreign lands for immediate treatment is often a solution to the problem. Medical tourism is popular and generally accepted because it provides patients with medical care accompanied by five-star treatment and exclusive vacations. Thailand and India are among the emerging popular spots for medical tourism. The government of these nations has successfully exercised its leadership to assist in the development of the medical tourism industry.
India is one of the major players in the medical tourism industry today. Cosmetic surgery and dental treatments are often what medical tourists have been looking for, but recent studies reveal that even eye surgery, kidney dialysis, and organ transplantation are among the most common procedures that medical vacationers seek. In particular, India excels in open heart surgery, pediatric cardiac surgery, bone marrow transplants, and cancer therapy. Hospitals are equipped with the latest electronic and medical diagnostic equipment. Pharmaceuticals also meet the stringent requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration and even qualify for American standards of quality of care.
Marketing one’s facilities with informative websites on medical tourism, outlining transparent pricing schemes and the availability of the latest medical equipment is the trend of the day. As more and more patients from rich countries seek effective options on the high seas, the medical tourism industry has expanded at a rapid rate. Developments will, of course, lead to other economic activities where quality will always be the main element.