Medical tourism has been growing for more than a decade. It began with people choosing cosmetic surgery abroad in search for better prices and anonymity. Since then, it has moved inevitably into the non-cosmetic area. Patients from various regions of the world now travel for orthopedic and heart surgery, dentistry, hernias, cataracts and almost any kind of elective surgery.
One of the most popular destinations is India. What makes India an attractive medical tourist destination is low-cost treatment. It is estimated that treatment costs in India start at around a tenth of the price of analogous procedures in the United States or Britain. Many of the doctors were educated or practiced in the West, so their expertise is equally impeccable. In many countries, people have to wait a long period of time to undergo a surgery, so these countries have developed links with India for fast treatments for their nationals. The Indian government has created incentives such as a fast-track visa for foreign patients. However, India has competitors. Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore – all have government-backed medical tourism programs.
Thailand has long been a big draw for medical tourists. More and more hospitals are accredited by JCAHO (the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health care Organizations), and the number of medical tourists is increasing. Over one million every year go there for medical procedures ranging from cosmetic surgery to heart treatment.
The Philippines also boast some of the best hospitals offering best expertise, highest level facilities, and warm hospitality. There are also some of the world’s best spa resorts and tour destinations in the region.
Singapore, another medical hub, is planned to be developed into a leading health care destination in Asia. Although there are no official figures yet, industry experts are guessing that more than 400,000 foreigners visited Singapore for medical care last year, maintaining a steady growth of an average of 20 percent over the past few years.
Latin American countries offer hospital-and-tourism packages to the US residents. In Central America, nations are marketing their plastic surgery, dentistry and certain surgical procedures, along with a “getaway” vacation.
Then there are Eastern European countries, which offer the lowest prices in Europe. For instance, cataract removal in Poland or Lithuania would cost £650, as compared to £2,350 in the UK.
Clinics are also popping up in transit zones: there is one at Munich international airport; Dubai is planning to open the Dubai Health care City by the end of the decade.
South Africa, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey – all have entered the lucrative market or are trying to do so, and the list of countries is expanding every year.