Medical Tourism – Risks and Rewards

Medical tourism or health tourism is a term coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly growing practice of traveling to other countries for medical treatment and health care. Medical tourism sets can be opted for elective procedures or more complicate medical situations like joint substitute, cardiac surgery or already cosmetic surgery. Besides, it not only covers medical issues but also provides a travel and tourism angle to it. So in a nutshell, medical tourism calls for people to use a holiday on some other country, relax and at the same time get medical attention and necessary treatment.

Though this might seem to be a new concept, the history of medical tourism can be traced back to the early days. Thousands of years ago, Greek pilgrims used to travel from all over the Mediterranean to a small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria. This probably records the first example of medical tourism. The Spa towns of the early days can also be considered an early form of medical tourism. Hence, it can be stated that though the concept of medical tourism has attained popularity in recent times, its component existed already in the distant past.

But why are so many people, in recent times, choosing to travel to other parts of the world to get medical attention, which is well obtainable in their own land? The reasons could be many. However, the dominant reasons are the high cost of health care facilities and delay for the necessary procedures in industrialized countries. To add to these, the ease and affordability of international travels followed by the overall enhancement of technological development and standards in the smaller nations due to globalization have also accelerated the growth of medical tourism industry to a great extent. Most of the medical tourists come from nations with large population, comparatively high wealth, and high expense of health care or without of health care options locally like U.K., Middle East, Japan, and U.S. etc. while countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cuba, Colombia, Philippines or India are the more likely choices of their medical tourism destination.

The more popular worldwide destinations for medical travel are Brunei, Cuba, Colombia, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, UAE and New Zealand while the more popular cosmetic surgery destinations include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Turkey.

No matter how popular medical tourism becomes and how many people opt for it, the complete course of action has its own risks and rewards. One big threat is that in case there are complications, patients might not be covered by insurance or able to seek compensation by malpractice lawsuits. However, in order to help medical tourists avoid such situations, new insurance covers are little by little being introduced in the market. additionally, some countries, which are considered to be the most sought after destination for medical tourism, also provide legal remedies for medical malpractice. These countries have different viral diseases compared to the American and European continents and exposure to such diseases without having an immunity system built-up can rule to slower recovery rates and complications. Nonetheless, the cheaper cost of basic medical needs and the attention to the urgency of the health care needs is sure to help medical tourism keep a popular choice in the coming days.

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