Medical tourism is a fast-growing industry, promising shorter waiting times and lower medical costs. But is it safe? We break down the pros and cons of the growing trend, and whether it’s worth travelling abroad to seek out medical treatment.
What is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism, also known as health tourism, is an industry centred around accessing medical care or treatment abroad. Often, people from less-developed countries travel to developed countries to get the best treatments and diagnosis of their underlying medical conditions. This phenomenon has always been present, but the practice saw a major hike in the 21st Century.
Interestingly, people from developed countries have also started travelling to lesser developed countries to lower their treatment costs. Due to differences in the course of treatment and waiting times between countries, people are willing to fly to other countries to access proper healthcare services without waiting for a longer time.
For example, the cost and wait period of a liver transplant is much higher in the USA, but the same procedure is done at a lower cost in Taiwan. People generally prefer to travel to places where they can trust the quality of the medical service.
Every process has two its merits and disadvantages. Although medical tourism has helped people receive timely treatments, it can’t be denied that this process has both pros and cons.
The Pros and Cons of Medical Tourism
Advantages of Medical Tourism
• The process of medical tourism allows people to receive treatments much more quickly and skip the long waiting list in their originating countries.
• It also helps lower the cost of treatment if one opts for a country with cheaper healthcare services compared to the country of residence.
• Some health facilities have also partnered with medical tourism agencies to allow patients to access post-treatment checkups.
• Given the nature of the practice, patients may also be able to explore the country they are visiting while they access the healthcare they need.
Disadvantages of Medical Tourism
• The application process of getting legal permits and visas and the corresponding paperwork can be time-consuming and expensive, depending upon the country you are travelling to.
• All countries have different lists of approved drugs, supplements and treatments that can differ from those in your native country. This could affect the patient’s post-care treatment as well as their existing medication plan if they have ongoing prescriptions.
• Cultural and language barriers can be an issue for the patients undergoing treatment when it comes to communicating with healthcare officials.
• A major concern among patients is the follow-up after the treatment is done and the patient returns to the native country.
• Malpractice in this industry can have serious consequences for a patient’s health. High-quality premium medical care services may be promised, but not provided to the patients.
Top Destinations for Medical Tourism
People who like to travel to other countries for cutting their cost of treatment prefer countries like India, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, and other such countries.
Other countries are also known for specialty care, such as South Korea, Argentina and Brazil, which are popular for cosmetic surgeries.
In addition, countries like the USA and Singapore are known for their advanced healthcare infrastructure and treatments of rare or complicated diseases that require extensive or specialist care, such as lumbar radiculopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Is it Worth Travelling Abroad for Treatment?
Yes, it is. Medical tourism has helped many patients access treatment and high-quality healthcare services, which might not be available in their own country. However, it is paramount to pick the right country and a reputable healthcare provider to ensure the quality of care both during and post-treatment.
The whole idea behind travelling to another country for healthcare is to get better services and treatment. So, before you finalise your destination, ensure that you’ve conducted adequate research and that your chosen facilities are accredited according to international standards to avoid potential problems. At the end of the day, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of medical tourism beforehand will allow you to make the most of the industry’s benefits.