Before 2019, the market was increasing as additional benefits were being added at host countries including:
1. Improved healthcare
2. Latest technology
3. Innovative medicines
4. Modern devices
6. Personalized care
Propelling the market growth:
1. Inadequate home country (or company sponsored) insurance benefits
2. No (or limited) healthcare insurance in the local market
3. Increasing demands for procedures not covered by insurance (i.e., gender reassignment operations, fertility treatment, dental reconstruction)
A 2021 study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 0.75 – 1.6 million people from the USA travel out of the country for medical care to avoid high treatment costs. A hip replacement surgery in the USA can cost approximately US$39,299 while the same surgery in India, Costa Rica or other developing countries is priced at between US$7,000 and US$15,000, including logistics ( www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com ).
Cash Flow for Destination Country
Medical tourism generates foreign exchange income and contributes to the overall development of an economy. It also provides employment and business opportunities for residents while promoting growth of allied businesses such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and tourism.
Government support to maintain the general reputation and political stability of the host country drives this market. Politicians and bureaucrats are willing to invest in local enterprises to capitalize on the growth of medical tourism and they have been authorizing projects that help in overall development of infrastructure (i.e., public transport systems, and water supply facilities) to attract high-end medical travelers. In cooperation with private sector tour operators and hoteliers, healthcare providers offer comprehensive medical tourism packages that include airline and ground transportation reservations, hotel accommodations, cultural experiences, and medical insurance.
Many cosmetic surgery procedures are considered elective and not covered under most insurance schemes. Because insurance does not cover the relevant procedures, and the costs are paid for by the consumer, lower costs in other countries appeals to the foreign patient. Money is saved by traveling to destinations and scheduling treatments at rates that are lower while experiencing activities at the destination country. The countries focusing on the growth of medical tourism offer luxurious accommodations, comfortable treatment options by hospitals and arrangements for tourism-focused activities post-treatment.
Another benefit to the host country is a slow-down or reversal of the migration of medical professionals to developed countries. The Apollo group in India claims to have attracted more than 123 expatriate medical professionals to return by offering more medical tourism with competitive salaries and the opportunity to live and work in their country of origin while still being able to practice advance healthcare. (However, this represents just 10 percent of the number of Indian-trained physicians entering US medical residencies each year and scarcely makes a dent in the estimated need for 800,000 more physicians in India over the next decade).
Medical tourism has also allowed some developing countries with smaller populations to sustain and subsidize advanced medical care and technology, as well as to maintain critical medical specialties with low domestic demand.
O fea e alu i ai?
Popular destinations for medical tourism include: India, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Colombia, Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, Czech Republic, and Spain. Before Covid, India and Thailand were the most popular destinations and Thailand’s status has been enhanced as it is one of the most popular destinations in Asia. The increasing number of private hospitals, improvements in overall healthcare infrastructure and less expensive treatments contribute to the growth of inbound medical tourists in Thailand.
Thailand has been the preferred destination for cosmetic and bariatric surgeries including breast augmentation, laser tattoo removal, liposuction, Botox, hair transplant and CoolSculpting. Currently the country has more than 450 private hospitals and the number is expected to increase exponentially. Thailand has targeted countries for growth including China, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam as a result of the growing affluence and increasing demands for professional healthcare services in these countries.
India has been the favored destination for knee and hip replacement and gastric bypass while Costa Rica has been selected for dental procedures. Germany is considered a host country for cancer treatment and the disease accounted for a large growth market in 2019 because of an increase in incidences worldwide. Medical services for cancer are expensive and demands prolonged treatment therefore reduced costs in different countries fuels the growth in the market.
France is also a host country for cancer treatment as it has many radiotherapy machines, linear accelerators, fast access to doctors and the highest success rate in Europe ( https://www.medic8.com ).
Fertility treatment (reproductive tourism) shows fast growth at a rate of 9.7 percent over the next few years. Approximately 20,000 to 25,000 couples annually seek assisted reproductive technology services abroad. An estimated 4.0 percent of European Union citizens receive treatment in other countries.
Turkey is a popular destination for IVF services and the cost difference between the USA and Turkey is so significant that that overall cost of obtaining the service from Turkey remains lower even with additional expenses for travel and accommodations. It has been determined that the quality of the Turkish hospital to be better than the corresponding indicators in US hospitals
Taiwan medical tourism started in 2008 and it is the destination for very difficult surgeries such as liver transplants, cord blood transplantations, cancer treatment and plastic surgeries. Many select Taiwan for outpatient and health examination services with most patients arriving from Mainland China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. The revenue from the Taiwan medical tourism industry is expected to grow to a market estimated to be close to US$743,740,000 by 2025.