What is it?
Medical tourism (also called medical travel, health tourism or global health care) is a term initially coined by travel agencies and themass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain health care. Such services typically include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeriessuch as joint replacement (knee/hip), cardiac surgery, dental surgery, and cosmetic surgeries. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available. As a practical matter, providers and customers commonly use informal channels of communication-connection-contract, and in such cases this tends to mean less regulatory or legal oversight to assure quality and less formal recourse to reimbursement or redress, if needed. Over 50 countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry.However, accreditationand other measures of quality vary widely across the globe, and there are risks and ethical issues that make this method of accessing medical care controversial. Also, some destinations may become hazardous or even dangerous for medical tourists to contemplate. History of health tourism
The concept of medical tourism is almost as old as medicine itself. Long before the first American cardiac patient stepped onto Indian soil, the country enjoyed a rich history of providing Yoga instruction, spiritual enlightenment, and Ayurvedic healing to seekers from around the world. The first recorded instance of medical tourism dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrimstraveled from all over the Mediterranean to the small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria.This territory was the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios. Epidauria became the original travel destination for medical tourism. Spa towns and sanitariums may be considered an early form of medical tourism. In eighteenth century England, for example, patients visited spas because they were places with supposedly health-giving mineral waters, treating diseases from gout to liver disorders and bronchitis. Health tourism: An overview
Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries.Medical tourists can come from anywhere in the First World, including Europe, the Middle East, Japan, the United States, and Canada. This is because of their large populations, comparatively high wealth, the high expense of health care or lack of health care options locally, and increasingly high expectations of their populations with respect to health care. An authority at the Harvard Business School recently stated that "medical tourism is promoted much more heavily in the United Kingdom than in the United States". A forecast by Deloitte Consulting published in August 2008 projected that medical tourism originating in the US could jump by a factor of ten over the next decade. An estimated 750,000 Americans went abroad for health care in 2007, and the report estimated that a million and a half would seek health care outside the US in 2008. The growth in medical tourism has the potential to cost US health care providers billions of dollars in lost revenue. A large draw to medical travel is convenience and speed. Countries that operate public healthcare systems are often so taxed that it can take considerable time to get non-urgent medical care. Using Canada as an example, an estimated 782,936 Canadians spent time on medical waiting lists in 2005, waiting an average of 9.4 weeks.Canada has set waiting-time benchmarks, e. g. 26 weeks for a hip replacement and 16 weeks for cataract surgery, for non-urgent medical procedures. In Costa Rica, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cuba,...