The Rise of Medical Tourism

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What used to be rare is now commonplace: traveling abroad to receive medical treatment, and to a developing country at that.So-called medical tourism is on the rise for everything from cardiac care to plastic surgery to hip and knee replacements. As a recent Harvard Business School case study describes, the globalization of health care also provides a fascinating angle on globalization generally and is of great interest to corporate strategists. "Apollo Hospitals—First-World Health Care at Emerging-Market Prices" explores how Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, a cardiologist, opened India's first for-profit hospital in the southern city of Chennai in 1983. Today the Apollo Hospitals Group manages more than 30 hospitals and treats patients from many different countries, according to the case. Tarun Khanna, a Harvard Business School professor specializing in global strategy, coauthored the case with professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Carin-Isabel Knoop, executive director of the HBS Global Research Group. The medical services industry hasn't been global historically but is becoming so now, says Khanna. There are several reasons that globalization can manifest itself in this industry: •Patients with resources can easily go where care is provided. "Historically doctors moved from Africa and India to London and New York to provide care. Now we are basically flipping it around and saying, 'Why don't the patients move? It's not as difficult as it used to be.' " •High quality care, state-of-the-art facilities, and skilled doctors are available in many parts of the world, including in developing countries. •Auxiliary health-care providers such as nurses go where care is needed. Filipino nurses provide an example, perhaps. "From a strategic point of view you can move the output or the input," explains Khanna. "Applying this idea to human health care sounds a bit crude, but the output is the patient, the input is the doctor. We used to move the input around, and make doctors go...
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