Consumerism is the new mantra of the present generation. People want value for money for every purchase they make. When almost every imaginable service is near at hand, can medical treatment be far behind? Of late, “doctor shopping” is the phrase that is circling the medical arena. This phrase refers to the rapidly increasing number of patients who choose to undergo medical treatment in foreign countries. People, especially in the US and the UK have realized that the medical treatment offered in their countries is highly expensive in comparison to such Asian and African countries like India, Thailand, Bangkok, Cuba, and Lithuania. These developing nations offer world-class healthcare and medical facilities to overseas patients. While the citizens of these nations find it hard to afford such facilities, patients from the US or other European countries find it quite affordable. Besides an inexpensive vacation package in these countries makes the whole process of treatment extremely attractive.
Before the discussing the pros and cons of medical tourism, it is necessary to glance at the origin of this trend. Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon. According to David Morgan, this phenomenon was perceptible in the early 19th century when no restrictions were imposed on the movement of people in Europe. Initially, mere traveling was considered a good therapy for physical as well as mental health. Later, the wealthy families began to make trips to the Swiss Lakes, the Alps, and special tuberculosis sanatoriums, where professional and specialized medical care was offered. The scenario improved further in the 21st century. Thailand, followed by India, Puerto-Rico, Argentina, Cuba, and Malaysia quickly emerged as the hottest medical tourism destinations. Complicated surgeries like hip and knee replacement surgery, dental works, cosmetic surgery, kidney dialysis, organ transplant and sex change topped the list of the popular procedures performed in these destinations. According to survey reports, in 2002, six hundred thousand medical tourists came to Bangkok and Phuket medical centers in Thailand, while approximately one hundred and fifty thousand foreign patients visited India in the same period. It is also estimated that by 2012, medical tourism in India will generate an astonishing $2.1 billion dollars in revenue. This assumption, however, is based on the fact that around 600 Baby Boomers from the US, Australia and Europe will age and seek medical care by that time span. This assumption has led many countries to treat the medical tourism sector as a profitable business. The Indian Government has also shown its interest in this sector by adopting various provisions to promote this industry. In Philippines, the medical tourism industry was included in last year Investment Priorities Plan. These trends are enough to justify the phenomenal growth of the medical tourism industry in the present age.
The major attraction of medical tourism to the innumerable number of overseas patients is its affordable cost. When compared to the expenses of medical treatment in the US, the prices in the Third World countries seem a mere trifle. In the US, there are approximately 43 billion people without health insurance and 120 million without dental coverage. In case of an emergency medical treatment, they are required to pay for the treatment either in cash or take out a loan. The ordinary citizens, especially the uninsured lot, find it hard to meet these estimated expenses. According to the CBC News, a cardiac surgery in the United States and the United Kingdom on average costs from $30,000 to $50,000, while root canal costs approximately $3,500. In such situations, medical tourism offers an excellent solution for such financial crunches. In India, for instance, example, the above-mentioned procedures can cost anywhere from $4000 to $9000 and $200 to $400, respectively.
Next comes the issue related to formalities involved prior to undergoing any medical treatment. In medical tourism destinations, not only are the paperwork hassles comparatively less, but also the liability policies are less strict. According to the News Target, “many MDs …insist that as much as 80 percent of all healthcare dollars that go through their office cover nothing but paperwork”. In addition, medical doctors spend a large percentage of their income on insurance coverage in a case of lawsuits, further increasing healthcare costs.
Time is another factor that lures patients to medical tourism spots from all over the world. In developed countries, the public healthcare system is too overburdened to perform all its duties on scheduled time. The situation is worse for those who need immediate treatment. Hence, the only option for these patients is to fly abroad for medical attention. Medical tourism has thus offered American and European citizens some better options than visiting their own doctors.
These advantages of medical tourism are more than adequate to score over European or American healthcare facilities. The only sound advice that foreign patients should keep in mind (while in a medical tourism destination) is to be prepared for some emergency expenses that might emerge on account of any medical complications. However, such cases are rare and the outcome is mostly satisfactory. Glancing at the present scenario, it would not be wrong to conclude that medical tourism is here to stay and invite universal acclaim.
Suzanne Macguire is an Internet marketing professional with expertise in content development and technical writing in a variety of industries.