Promotion of Health Tourism in India
The global growth in the flow of patients and health professionals as well as medical technology, capital funding and regulatory regimes across national borders has given rise to new patterns of consumption and production of healthcare services over recent decades. The free movement of goods and services under the auspices of the World Trade Organization and its General Agreement on Trade in Services has accelerated the liberalization of the trade in health services, as have developments with regard to the use of regional and bi-lateral trade agreements. As health care is predominantly a service industry, this has made health services more tradable, global commodities. A significant new element of this trade has involved the movement of patients across borders in the pursuit of medical treatment and health care, a phenomenon commonly termed - medical tourism‘.
The consumption of health care in a foreign land is not a new phenomenon, and developments must be situated within the historical context. Individuals have travelled abroad for health benefits since ancient times, and during the 19th Century in Europe for example there was a fashion for the growing middle-classes to travel to spa towns to take the waters‘, which were believed to have health-enhancing qualities. During the 20th Century, wealthy people from less developed areas of the world travelled to developed nations to access better facilities and highly trained medics. However, the shifts that are currently underway with regard to medical tourism are quantitatively and qualitatively different from earlier forms of health-related travel. The key differences are a reversal of this flow from developed to less developed nations, more regional movements, and the emergence of an international market for patients. The key features of the new 21st Century style of medical tourism are summarized below: The large numbers of people travelling for treatment; the shift towards patients from richer, more developed nations travelling to India is due to access to health services, largely driven by the low-cost treatments and helped by cheap flights and internet sources of information; new enabling infrastructure,affordable, accessible travel and readily available information over the internet; Industry development: both the private business sector and national governments in both developed and developing nations have been instrumental in promoting medical tourism as a potentially lucrative source of foreign revenue.
8. What are the implications of these changes in medical travel for OECD countries? Fundamentally, such developments point towards a paradigm shift in the understanding and delivery of health services. The market in medical tourists is set to grow, with potentially far-reaching impacts on publicly-funded health care including the developing notion of patients as ‗consumers‘ of health care rather than ‗citizens‘ with rights to health care services. There will of course also be a range of attendant risks and 7 opportunities for patients. Predictions for this emerging global market are difficult but the direction and speed of its travel is becoming increasing clear. This report identifies the key emerging policy issues relating to the rise of ‗medical tourism‘. In this introductory section we explore competing definitions and concepts relating to medical tourism. Definitions of medical tourism and health tourism
9. It is important to begin by defining what is meant by ‗medical tourism‘. For the purposes of this report we define medical tourism as when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment. This treatment may span the full range of medical services, but most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment. Setting the boundary of what is health and counts as medical tourism for the purposes of...
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