Passport Please: Medical Tourism Continues to Take Off

Posted on  April 24, 2018


It’s not going away – medical tourism is real, and no amount of indignation or ignoring it will change the situation.

The rising cost of surgery in the U.S. and the ever-improving facilities in developing countries are leading to more and more Americans turning to medical tourism.

The Medical Tourism Market is projected to grow from U.S. $56.333 billion in 2018 to U.S. $136.591 billion in 2023. Singapore, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Mexico and Turkey are just a few countries vying for U.S. patients. Not only is the promise of significantly cheaper surgery for non-essential procedures tempting many, the idea of a “vacation” thrown in sounds enticing (the truth is, recovering from surgery is anything but a holiday, but that’s another story).

Almost ten years ago, the American College of Surgeons issued a statement regarding medical tourism. Unsurprisingly, it warns of the risks posed to patients who seek overseas treatment. Fear continues to be the main weapon against this industry.

The truth is many overseas facilities that aggressively promote medical tourism are sophisticated units with the latest equipment and highly trained doctors.

So – is medical tourism a threat to your business?

It depends. General practitioners don’t need to lose sleep, while cosmetic surgeons will no doubt be concerned. Dental, fertility and cardiovascular treatments such as stents are also procedures people look overseas for, so these professionals won’t be a fan of the idea.

How can doctors and clinics in the U.S. combat medical tourism? The most difficult issue to tackle is the cost of surgery; overheads such as staff, facilities and the cost of living will need to be taken into account. So, you’re never going to win on price.

Fear? That’s up to the individual, however it does go to medical principals; maligning a fellow surgeon doesn’t sit well with most professionals. Sure, there’s risk of infection and low quality medications. If something does go wrong, the quality of follow up treatment may be inadequate.

People will do their homework before making a decision; they’ll know the risks as well as the level of (financial) reward so it’s best not to use hyperbole when referring to overseas options.

The positive ways there are to combat this growing trend? Promoting (and, of course, providing) superior service and care. Find a niche in the market. Build relationships.

If all else fails and a patient wants to head overseas, make sure he/she goes with up-to-date medical records, medications and emergency contact details including the local embassy.

While approximately 1.4million U.S. citizens are estimated to have sought out medical procedures in another country last year, it’s not likely to make an enormous impact on individual surgeons across the country. Sure, they hate the idea of medical tourism. Better to concentrate on being the very best they can be.

What’s your view on this?

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