Healthcare around the world is growing in various directions, backing the complexes accordingly. The development is more prominent in the developed countries leading to difficulties in finding a promising healthcare within affordable range. It is unavoidable fact that in developed countries, the waiting list is so long, that a patient with migraine should wait 19 months for an appointment. In search of opportunities, the healthcare seekers are flying abroad for cheaper and better options, making medical tourism as the most emerging sector of healthcare. Currently, more than 3 million people enjoy the advantages of medical tourism worldwide. Health care has travelled a long way since the yester years of Florence Nightingale, where health care was just tender loving care; there wasn’t enough treatment and health care. Screams of pain used to come from the cut-line of the surgeon’s scalpel, but now they come from the bottom line of hospital bills. The service of medicine has transformed into a $4 trillion business, and has been a quite noble profession since the ancient days. As there began a gap between the affordability and the hike in the prices, the people started to worry about quality of healthcare. Medical tourism bridges this gap lucratively, with benefits to the medical tourists and the hosts.
Reasons for high cost of healthcare
The cost of healthcare, over a few years, has been on the rise, importantly in the first half of this decade. With more advancements introduced into the sector, and a similar growths in responsibilities of care, the prices show a proportional increase. For instance, to mention few advanced technologies like – PET scan, X-Ray microtomography (3D X-ray), MRI, CT scan, ultrasound etc, they are very necessary in today’s health care treatments but they require a huge investment. Though patients are more worried about the costs of care, the advanced treatments are a relief.
When the question is about health, cost has never been an issue and people always want the best. This is suitable only for the richer community but not for financially average people. But why go for something which is so costly when the same treatment is offered at 30-70% lesser cost abroad. This unaffordable cost is why people shop for good hospitals, that have competent doctors, advanced equipments, multi-disciplinary service under a single roof and total quality care with courteous and caring staff.
Medical tourism – A ray of hope
Medical tourism rapidly globalized the healthcare sector, with people travelling abroad seeking general treatments or more complicated procedures like cosmetic surgeries, and dental surgeries at a lower cost.
The main benefits of medical tourism are top quality health services at a reasonable price and travelling abroad to an amazingly enthralling destination which is always an exciting endeavor. Though it’s widely spread network, medical tourism helps individuals, corporations and insurers to save money and time. With the advance in technology, media and cost-effective travel services, medical tourism has reached every common man. With its increasing popularity most people are making use of this alternative for their health care needs. According to Global Wellness Institute, the medial tourism market is close to $500 billion by the end of 2014. The market is expected to cross $600 billion, with more than six million patients travelling abroad for treatment.
History of Medical Tourism
The first instance of medical tourism was recorded thousands of years back, when Greek pilgrims travelled over Mediterranean Sea Epiduria also known as “Sanctuary of healing god – Asklepios”. This was an important travel destination for people seeking medical help. In the process of time, as the travelling and the media became more diverged and the agencies emerged, the term ‘Medical tourism” came to the popular use.
Ancient destinations of medical tourism centered on the areas rich in mineral resources and thermal springs in Europe and Northern-east Africa and Japan. As early as 4000 BC, the Sumerians constructed a healing place around a hot-spring which was visited by many tourists for its healing properties. Many tourists visited India for it has been teaching yoga and providing various Ayurvedic procedures back from 5000 years.. Japan has also been attracting medical travelers for the past 1000 years, for being popular for its mineral spring called “Onsen”. In the 16th century Europe started booming as a medical tourism destination with the introduction of Roman Baths or Spas. By the early 1900s, the United States and Europe secured their position as major health care destinations, besides being industrially developed. The medical facilities offered by them were limited to rich travelers who would afford high-end medical services. Cosmetic and dental surgeries emerged as major reasons for medical tourism in the early 1980-90s as people started dodging high prices at the home Counties. Patients from the United States flied to Costa Rica for dental procedures that were not covered under the insurance, and this eventually transformed into “tooth tourism”. In the late 1980s, the Cuban health care sector started many health care programs at an affordable rate to attract people from countries like India, Latin America and Europe. The programs included eye surgeries, heart surgery and cosmetic procedures. The Cuban government reported that in 1990 alone, around 2000 medical travelers from various parts of the world visited Cuba for various health care procedures. In the late 1990s, Thailand also emerged as a hot destination for medical tourism by offering procedures like plastic surgery and other routine medical procedures. On the other hand, New Zealand is also positioning itself as a medical tourism hub by more popular procedures like hip and knee replacement surgery.
The economy of medical tourism is settling itself firm, as the savings recorded at the destinations are high. The destination countries are symbiotically extracting the profits of medical tourism and maintaining a proper niche. This pushes to be the reason for many countries striving to provide better health care services and establish themselves as medical tourism hubs.Medical tourism has its own share of advantages and disadvantages, as every trade does. Medical traveler might be able to save lots of money, along with a much needed vacation abroad but expect some disadvantages along the way. Nonetheless, medical tourism is here to stay, thanks to the mass media, modern technology and hassle-free travel to other countries.