What is the Medical Tourism or Medical Travel?

What is the Medical Tourism?

medical tourism, also called health tourism, surgical tourism, or medical travel is international travel for the purpose of receiving medical care. and it can be defined as the process of traveling outside the country of residence for the purpose of receiving medical care. Growth in the popularity of medical tourism has captured the attention of policy-makers, researchers and the media. Originally, the term referred to the travel of patients from less-developed countries to developed nations in pursuit of the treatments not available in their homeland.

medical tourism, also called health tourism, surgical tourism, or medical travel is international travel for the purpose of receiving medical care. Many patients engage in medical tourism because the procedures they seek can be performed in other countries at relatively low cost and without the delay and inconvenience of being placed on a waiting list. In addition, some patients travel to specific destinations to undergo procedures that are not available in their home country. Examples of such procedures include stem-cell transplants and organ transplantation operations.

No agreed definition of medical tourism exist; as a result methods

applied by countries vary substantially

  • Some countries count foreign patients’ visits to hospitals whereas others count the entry of individual patients into the country
  • Other countries record nationality but not a place of residence of patients, which can be problematic when migrants return to their home country for treatment

Before you go, gather the information you need.  Research the hospital, procedure, and surgeon performing it. Make informed choices about your medical procedure. This helps you reduce the risks of things going wrong. 

Today we are experiencing both qualitative and quantitative shifts in patient mobility, as people travel from richer to less-developed countries in order to access health services. Such shift is mostly driven by the relative low-cost of treatments in less developed nations, the availability of inexpensive flights and increased marketing and online consumer information about the availability of medical services.

What really puts the word "tourism" in medical tourism concept is that people often stay in the foreign country after the medical procedure. Travelers can thus take advantage of their visit by sightseeing, taking day trips or participating in any other traditional tourism activities.


Medical tourism represents a worldwide, multibillion-dollar phenomenon that is expected to grow considerably in the next decade. For the individual interested in health services, the cost is the key factor involved in the decision to receive medical care abroad.

As healthcare costs in the US and other parts of the world are excessively soaring, many employers and insurance companies started to view medical tourism as a way to lower them. More and more countries around the globe start to see the financial benefits from this emerging market, so they offer premium medical services at notably lower prices.

The primary reason that clinics and hospitals in developing countries are able to lower their prices is directly related to the nation's economic status. The direct correlation with per capita gross domestic product of the country is observed, which is a proxy for income levels. As a consequence, surgery prices are from 30% to 70% lower in the countries that are promoting medical tourism when compared to the US.

Main drivers of medical tourism

  1. Most advanced technology
  2. Better-quality care for medically necessary procedures
  3. Quicker access for medically necessary procedures
  4. Lower-cost care for medically neccessaty procedures
  5. Lower-cost care for discretionary procedures


There are two major components of service quality in the health care sector - technical or mechanical quality and serviceable or functional quality. Technical equipment is at the core of the patients' diagnostic algorithm, while the functional quality is measured by the service offered in the healthcare centers (such as the services of staff, nurses, and, most importantly, the doctors towards the patient and their assistants). The service quality in the medical tourism industry is a vital part of attracting customers.

One of the fundamental barriers in accepting medical tourism is the perception of inadequate quality. A key to overcoming it is using adequate marketing strategies and quality assessment via accreditation from an internationally recognized institution. Such accreditation is pivotal for strengthening confidence in the quality of healthcare.

This confidence can be even stronger if accreditation is followed by affiliation with reputable hospitals or health care systems in industrialized countries. Once healthcare providers are accredited and become a part of international referral networks, they can be appropriately rated for risks.

Treatment types

Categories of different treatments and their availability also represent an important factor in the decision to engage in medical tourism. The most common types of procedures that patients pursue during medical tourism trips are elective cosmetic surgery, dentistry, organ transplantation, cardiac surgery, and orthopedic surgery.

However, a wide variety of services can be obtained through medical tourism, ranging from various essential treatments to different kinds of traditional and alternative treatments. Reproductive tourism and reproductive outsourcing are growing in popularity, which is the practice of traveling abroad to engage in surrogate pregnancy, in vitro fertilization, and other assisted reproductive technology methods.

In addition to cost, another major factor responsible for the increase in medical tourism is access. The lack of it, either due to the unavailability of the technology or the prohibition in the home country, can subsequently lead to medical tourism. The common examples are cytoplasmic transfer or stem cell therapy.

Destinations and services offered

Medical tourists may be citizens of developed or developing countries, although affluent individuals from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom account for a large proportion of the consumer base. Popular destinations for medical tourism include Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Africa, and Thailand. The types of health and medical clinics that cater to medical tourists are often state-of-the-art facilities and are staffed with physicians who possess advanced medical degrees. Medical tourism Web sites and travel agencies typically offer package deals, with recuperation from surgery advertised as vacation-like. Services offered range from cosmetic, cardiac, eye, dental, or orthopedic surgeries to psychiatric services and procedures such as gender-reassignment operations that may be socially or culturally unacceptable and hence unavailable in other countries.


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