Until recently, I paid little attention to people travelling all over the world seeking treatment. But talk of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon; ( where when one comes across some obscure piece of information– often an unfamiliar word or name– and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly), I now only see and think medical tourism. These days, a growing number of people are discovering the benefits of medical tourism. All over the world, it is becoming common knowledge that medical tourism offers a cheaper option for receiving medical treatment without compromising on quality. India is becoming a prime medical tourism destination for Africans. Africans are of high opinion of Indian health services. Many Africans travel to India for the sake of quality treatment. India is one such country, which provides a quality treatment at an affordable price. Indian healthcare revenues stood at $45 billion in 2012 and are expected to reach $160 billion by 2017, as per the India Brand Equity Foundation’s report.
The low cost medical services have resulted in a rise in medical tourism, attracting patients from across the world. The medical tourism industry in India pegged at $1 billion per annum, growing at around 18 percent and is expected to touch $2 billion by 2015.
In this article I hope to outline the benefits and advantages of medical tourism, the reasons why people go abroad for treatment and basically, what medical tourism is all about. And should you need help on medical tourism, please get in touch and we will provide you with assistance.
Medical Tourism at a Glance
In general, medical tourism is the act of going overseas to obtain medical, treatment in another country. Medical tourism is therefore, the movement of patients in search of skillful and affordable medical care to countries having a highly developed healthcare system. Also known as Healthcare Travel, this industry comprises of two distinct groups of people, one traveling from highly developed countries in search of affordable treatments to and the others traveling from poorly developed and developing countries in view of absent infrastructure.
Services typically sought by travelers include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries such as joint replacement (knee / hip), cardiac surgery, dental surgery, and cosmetic surgeries. Individuals with rare genetic disorders may travel to another country where treatment of these conditions is better understood. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care, rehabilitation and physiotherapy are available.
India is growing as a preferred destination for medical treatments with an increasing number of patients visiting various Indian hospitals for the required treatments. Advantages for medical treatments in India include reduced costs, availability of latest medical technologies, and growing compliance on international quality standards. With a large number of foreign students studying in India, language interpretation too does not come as a hinderance for international patients.
With a focus on international patients, hospitals in India now have dedicated patient managers to attend to the requirements of these patients, ensuring that they receive maximum care and comfort while undergoing treatment in India. Services being provided include personalized transfers, city tours, currency exchange at the doorstep and butler and concierge services.
More people are opting to receive medical treatment abroad rather than in their own countries because:
- Certain medical services are not available in their country of residence.
- Their health insurance does not cover the full cost of a procedure.
- Most people are unwilling to compromise their health just because the treatment costs are too high.
Why People Go Abroad for Treatment
The popularity of obtaining medical treatment overseas is influenced by several factors. People seek medical treatment abroad because:
- The costs of healthcare in developed nations have increased exceedingly.
- Nowadays, international travel is trouble-free and reasonably priced.
- Global standards of care and technological advancements in healthcare are rapidly improving all over the world.
- Improved communication opportunities make it easier to find and contact medical centers overseas.
Another factor to consider is health insurance. People without health insurance, or with a limited insurance policy, are more likely to seek other options such as medical tourism. As the price of healthcare services increase, the range of treatments and procedures that the health insurance policies cover decreases. The deductibles from a person’s health insurance may turn out to be more expensive than the price of going overseas for treatment. This is why people who simply cannot afford health insurance, choose traveling abroad as a legitimate alternative.
The Benefits of Medical Tourism
Affordability and Cost-effectiveness
The low cost of medical procedures, is the number one reason why people go offshore for medical treatments. The biggest benefit to seeking medical treatment abroad is availing of lower costs. Even when all other factors such as travel costs are taken into consideration, significant savings can still be made. Travelling to Thailand, for example, for a range of surgeries and medical procedures can result in savings of between 65 and 90 per cent on equivalent costs in the United States. Reduced costs of up to 80 per cent are possible in Malaysia. Open heart surgery in the United States can cost up to $324,000 yet it can cost as little as $8,000 in India.
Due to the low prices of medical procedures and surgery abroad, some people worry that medical tourism might be fraud or a scam. The main reason behind the low prices of medical treatments abroad is the low cost of labor in the popular medical tourism destinations.
Although the treatments are cheap, in most cases surgical procedures are performed by well -trained experts who are using top notch technology. In addition, the lower costs of malpractice, insurance and administration also contribute to the low prices of overseas medical procedures.
Many of the doctors and surgeons that offer healthcare services to international patients are trained and certified in Western countries, such as United States and Great Britain.
Medical centers all over the world have acquired accreditation from well-known international organizations such as JCI, JCAHO and ISO to express their dedication to excellence.
Another advantage of medical tourism is the immediate access to health care services. For those who have come from countries with public health care systems, medical tourism offers them the chance to be placed on the priority list. When dealing with matters of health, waiting is not always an option.
By choosing to have treatment abroad, typically at a private medical facility, the treatment or procedure can be arranged for a mutually suitable time. This means that there is no need to join a waiting list, as might be the case in the United States or other European countries. Not being required to wait for treatment is obviously beneficial to those suffering from serious illnesses or medical conditions for which urgent treatment will help.
Improved Flight and Communication Services
One of the benefits of medical tourism is the ease with which a procedure or course of treatment can be arranged. As the hospital or clinic requires payment in cash, there is very little paperwork to be completed. There is also no need for complex insurance forms or other administrative work to be submitted before or after the procedure. Depending on the destination, in many cases the most time consuming aspect of the journey may be arranging the necessary travel documents or visa. This reduction in paperwork can help a patient plan their trip in a relatively short space of time, again benefiting those with serious illnesses.
Most procedures performed abroad can be scheduled via the internet or by phone. People have the flexibility to book flights and schedule surgery procedures from the comfort of their own home. This eliminates the inconvenience of going to the hospital or clinic for evaluations and assessments. The only time a person has to leave their house is on the day or week of the surgery, or procedure.
Even though medical tourism is about obtaining medical care, a side benefit of medical tourism is having the opportunity to travel to another country. For some medical tourists, especially those seeking dental care, cosmetic care or wellness treatments, these can enjoy the opportunity to travel overseas in addition to receiving less expensive healthcare.
Destinations such as Thailand, India and Singapore offer patients world-class medical and recreational facilities, which is important to help recovery. Medical treatment abroad is usually purchased as a package, meaning that in some cases it can act like a mini-vacation. Bringing a partner, spouse or family members along too will help keep morale high, and also provide an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the climate, food and other attractions the destination country has to offer.
The concept of medical tourism is appealing to anyone who is interested in high quality and affordable healthcare. The medical tourism phenomenon is gaining popularity and the number of people going abroad for treatment increases rapidly every year.
With many medical tourism benefits, advancements in technology and improvements in healthcare standards within developing countries, it is likely that the advantages of medical tourism will provide a striking economical solution to many healthcare problems.