In the last 8 years, a lot of countries from Asia, South America, and Eastern European countries have become popular destinations for medical tourism, which is expected to grow from a current $20 billion industry into a $60 billion global industry in a year or two.
ccording to the survey data gathered from medical tourism services in the United Kingdom, in 2009, around 60,000 patients from the country traveled outside their country for treatment. Out of this, 43% were for dental care (around 25,800 patients), 29% were for cosmetic surgery (around 17,400 patients), and 28% were for other treatments and surgeries like infertility treatment and orthopedic surgery.
Britons save around 50% of money by traveling abroad, even taking into account the expenses incurred for accommodation and travel. They save up to 60% on dental implants, around 44% on complete acrylic dentures, and around 52% on extraction of wisdom tooth. By traveling to India, Britons save up to 56% on knee replacement, even with accommodation and travel (In France, they can save up to 36%).
In 2007, 500,000 to 750,000 American patients traveled abroad seeking comparatively less expensive health care and surgical interventions. This has increased to around an average of half a million Americans traveling abroad in the last 3 years. American medical tourists prefer various destinations depending on the type of treatment and proximity.
For dental services, most Americans prefer Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico, as it takes less time to travel. In general, South American countries are preferred for cosmetic and plastic surgery, as they offer some of the world’s top plastic and cosmetic surgeons. Mexico is preferred by senior Americans, as it is the closest to the USA. Every year, around 80,000 senior Americans travel to Mexico to spend their retirement.
The surgeries for which Americans travel abroad the most are for cosmetic surgery, weight loss surgery, infertility treatment, cardiac procedures, and orthopedic procedures. Medical tourists for cosmetic surgeries, infertility, and weight loss surgeries are high on the list, as these are not covered by most medical insurance companies in the USA. According to American medical tourism companies, India, Thailand, and Costa Rica are the most visited countries by American patients.
India and Southeast Asia are preferred for cardiovascular and orthopedic problems mainly because of world-class cardiovascular and orthopedic surgeons as well as the fact that there are lots of hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). Among Asian countries, Singapore is the one of the most preferred by American patients, as there are 13 JCI accredited hospitals, and the country offers a very clean environment. The number of medical tourists in the country increased from around 270,000 to around 400,000 in 2009. It is expected to reach close to a million by 2012.
Other than Singapore, India and Thailand have emerged as two hot destinations over the past 2 to 3 years. Medical tourists from the USA save between 20% and 30% of their health care costs traveling to these two countries. A large chunk of medical tourists visited India (1.2 million patients) and Thailand (1.1 million patients) in 2004 for health care and surgery.
Medical tourism is expected to grow into a $4.4 billion industry in Asia by 2012, with India expected to benefit half from it.
It should be noted that most statistics for medical tourism is based on surveys done on just around 20% of medical tourists worldwide, and most of the data are very rough estimates. However, there is no doubt that in the coming years, medical tourism is going to flourish in most of the developing world.