Medical Tourism Risks

Any medical procedure, no matter where it is performed, can come with risks for the patient. However, it is undeniable that having medical work done in a foreign country comes with its own distinct set of risks. What are the risks of medical tourism, and how can international patients protect themselves against them? 

Communication Struggles 

While many of the highly accredited hospitals and medical facilities have English-speaking staff, that does not mean every facility does. It does not even mean that the “English-speaking” caregivers are fluent. Your hospital could be the best around, but if they cannot fully understand some of the nuances of your conversation, vital information may be missed – on both sides. This is especially scary if complications with your procedure arise. 

Safety & Ethics 

In the US, healthcare is a highly regulated practice. Because the government keeps a close eye on hospitals and medical facilities, you know what you’re getting when you go to receive treatment. However, not all foreign countries have the same regulations as the US. If you choose to undergo medical tourism, make sure you research the regulations of the country you will visit and see if they have any credentials for regulating facilities. The Joint Commission International is a great place to start when searching for safe care facilities abroad. 

As far as ethics go, there is the matter of experimental practices. Some practices that are not approved in the US, such as using stem cells, are commonly performed in other countries. As a medical tourist, you may be seeking experimental procedures or treatments, but you also may be totally against them. Before you go, make sure you thoroughly research what kinds of practices and procedures your foreign medical provider will use. 


Traveling to receive medical care in another country certainly increases the risk of medical complications. First, the chance of infections increases, especially if you are at a facility that is poorly regulated. Bacterial and viral infections, as well as diseases like HIV and hepatitis, can be spread due to unsanitary medical practices. Another thing that can cause complications is traveling soon after a surgery or procedure. If you engage in medical tourism, it is best to remain in the country for a while as you recover. Many facilities have excellent recovery units and amenities – you just have to make sure you’re visiting the right place. 

Our medical tourism insurance is designed to provide coverage in the event of medical complications incurred in a foreign country. There are risks to medical tourism, but also wonderful benefits. Don’t go in unprotected. 

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Medical Tourism in Asia

Asia has long been a leader in destinations for medical tourism. Medical tourism is when a person travels to a foreign country to receive medical care at reduced costs. Patients visit Asian countries to receive medical care and procedures for several reasons. In addition to offering cheaper prices than a patient could find in their home country, such as the U.S., Asian countries also offer comfortable and enjoyable recovery periods. Here are some interesting, and perhaps surprising, facts about medical tourism in Asia. 

Asia Truly Caters to Medical Tourists 

There are many top-of-the-line hospitals in Asia that foreigners often visit. The countries absolutely welcome these visitors and have created an atmosphere where it is easy for foreigners to acclimate. Most hospitals have international desks where patients can discuss medical matters in English and even get assistance with finding local accommodation. The bedside manner in these hospitals and medical facilities is second to none. From the time they arrive to the post-op recovery period, American patients will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Medical tourism is a valuable economic asset to these Asian countries, so the facilities want to make sure their patients have a positive experience. 

Singapore Has the Best Healthcare System in Asia 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Singapore has the number one healthcare system in the continent. Furthermore, WHO ranked Singapore’s healthcare system number 6 in the entire world. Although costs for medical procedures in Singapore are higher than in other Asian countries, they are still significantly less than costs in America. The healthcare system in Singapore is highly regulated and has to adhere to certain standards for safety. This should be a comfort to any medical tourists who choose this country for their procedures. 

Thailand Has Over 50 JCI Accredited Hospitals and Medical Facilities 

The Joint Commission International (JCI), an organization with a mission to increase international medical standards, awards their coveted accreditation to facilities that meet or exceed their standards. It is incredible that Thailand, as of a 2018 count, has over 50 accredited facilities and hospitals. Bangkok alone has 9 within its city limits, including the well known Bumrungrad International, which was the first international hospital in Asia to receive the prestigious standard. 

Complications Can Arise Even the Top Medical Tourism Destinations

Just because Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia, and more are the top destinations does not mean your procedures will go 100% smoothly. No one wants to consider the possibility of issues arising, but you must be realistic and realize that is is a potential threat. If you are already spending your hard-earned money on traveling to an Asian country and having medical work performed, you will not want to incur even more expenses if complications arise. This is where we can help you, by providing medical tourism complication insurance. You don’t want to have to use it, but if you do, you will be so grateful to have it. 

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Medical Tourism Market Predictions

Medical tourism is popular (and economical) for a number of reasons. As the cost of medical treatments in developed countries continues to grow, medical tourism – the act of traveling to a foreign country to receive low cost, high quality medical care – will only continue to rise in popularity. 

Driving Factors 

Along with lower costs for procedures, medical facilities outside of the U.S. often have equal or better recovery care, equipment and technology. The standards that international care is valued at are also becoming higher, and facilities are competing to keep up and meet the resulting demands. These standards are most often set by organizations such as the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) and the Joint Commission International (JCI), which give valuable accreditations to hospitals and facilities that meet their standards of quality. 

Projected Growth 

In 2018, the global medical tourism market was valued at USD 39.6 billion. From 2019 to 2026, it’s expected to see a CAGR of 21.9%. This means that by 2026, the global medical tourism market is estimated to be valued at a staggering USD 179.6 billion. 

Popular Destinations 

Thailand dominated the medical tourism market in 2018, bringing in both the most revenue and the highest numbers of patients. Many choose Thailand for cosmetic procedures, but other procedures are more popular in different countries. The Asia-Pacific region overall does, however, dominate the medical tourism market. In 2018, the region brought in USD 4.8 billion from medical tourism. Along with Thailand, India, Singapore, and Malaysia are the most popular destinations for international healthcare in the region. It’s worth noting that the Latin American (LATAM) medical tourism market is expected to expand at 7.3% CAGR by 2025, so this region is not one to ignore for patients seeking healthcare across international borders. 

Insurance for Complications in Medical Tourism 

Wherever a patient chooses to go, even if it is a highly accredited hospital, there is a chance that unforeseen complications could arise after a procedure is performed. Our medical tourism insurance helps protect patients from the financial burden these complications would inevitably incur. 

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Popular Procedures For International Patients

An international patient is someone who travels outside their home country to receive medical care or procedures. These procedures are often ones that would not be covered under the patient’s health insurance. Other times, the procedures are experimental or not offered in the patient’s home country. In many cases, however, patients undergo healthcare internationally because even with the added cost of airfare and accommodation, the work is less expensive than it would be when performed in their home country – often even after health insurance.

We have covered the most popular destinations for American medical tourists, but what are the most popular procedures overall for international patients? Based on findings by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Patients Beyond Borders, here are the most common procedures and treatments for international patients:

  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Dentistry
  • Joint Replacement
  • Heart Surgery 
  • Elective Surgery
  • Fertility Treatment
  • Cancer Treatment 
  • Weight Loss Treatment

Despite the popularity of traveling internationally to receive medical care, there are certain risks associated with the practice. While medical tourism can be an incredibly successful and cost-effective solution, with opportunities to save up to 90% (according to the Medical Tourism Association), it can also be dangerous. If you are planning to engage in medical tourism, for any of the above procedures or more, make sure you’re covered against unexpected costs in the event of complications. Medical tourism insurance is there to give you peace of mind at an important and exciting time in your life.

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Where Are American Medical Tourists Going For Health Care?

The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world, so it’s no surprise that Americans have increasingly been traveling to receive medical care. For Americans without health insurance or Americans seeking procedures that are not covered by their health insurance, traveling to another country to have the work done is a great option. This practice is called medical tourism. Common procedures for American medical tourists include cosmetic, dental, and surgical work. But what countries are Americans visiting to receive this care?

Latin America
Top medical tourism destinations in Latin America include Mexico and Costa Rica. In Mexico, medical tourism is so popular that many towns along the United States-Mexico border have an incredibly high concentration of medical offices. Dental work is an especially popular type of medical tourism in Mexico.

The Caribbean
In addition to gorgeous beaches, the Caribbean region also boasts world-class medical facilities where patients can receive procedures for a fraction of the cost. The countries of the Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Cuba and Puerto Rico are the top destinations that American medical tourists visit to receive healthcare away from home. Cosmetic work and cardiac surgeries are especially common procedures.

Countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand are the most popular Asian destinations for American medical tourists. Even with the cost of airfare to these far away destinations, the overall cost of traveling to receive medical care in Asia is less than the cost of getting the same work done in the United States. The most popular procedures vary from country to country, but Asia is such a popular medical tourism destination that no matter what you need done, you can find an experienced practitioner to perform it.

Whether you’re visiting Latin America, the Caribbean, or Asia to engage in medical tourism, there are unexpected costs that may arise due to complications. While we hope no complications happen, you’ll be better off with the extra protection that only medical tourism insurance can provide. Don’t let your international healthcare experience ruin you financially.

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