What is Medical Tourism?

If you have never heard of medical tourism, you are not alone. Technically, the term means traveling across any international border for a medical procedure. This could mean a doctor’s check-up and prescription re-fill in Mexico, a special fertility procedure for a hopeful couple in Singapore or, the ultimate girl’s night out, “mommy makeovers” in Thailand. Procedures that used to be done at home are now being performed by medical professionals in foreign countries, often third world countries, for a greatly reduced price. History of Medial Tourism People have been traveling abroad for centuries, from pilgrimages to shrines or other holy places in hopes of miraculous healing to traveling to spas or sanitariums in order to bathe in the healing waters. In fact, at the turn of the century, it was the standard treatment for tuberculosis patients to travel to Arizona in hopes that the dry heat would heal them. Modern medical tourism saw an upswing in the 1980’s and 1990’s when health care costs started to spiral out of control. At that time, it was often called “tooth tourism” because many travelers went in search of discount dental procedures. The concept has spread to virtually every area of medicine. Is the United States really the best? Many Americans are working under the assumption that the United States offers the best health care. Unfortunately, that is just no longer a true statement. The most expensive, yes. The best, no. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the United States is #37 on the list. Countries like Chile, Singapore, Columbia and Costa Rica all rank higher than the United States and Slovenia (#38) and Cuba (#39) are giving the States a run for their money as well. It really is a global economy. Many countries specifically go after that niche tourist dollar for their economy and openly market their country’s services. In fact, many foreign facilities have English speaking doctors, trained in the United States and working at hospitals accredited by U.S. accrediting agencies. All of this is done to appeal to foreign patients and, as odd as it is to say, gain their business. So, How Does It Work? Most people either do their own research or contact a company that specializes in medical tourism. Generally, they plan a vacation in the country of their choice with a friend or relative and then have the surgery. They also enjoy a luxurious post-operative recovery, often in a resort type of setting. The entire vacation combined with the surgery and the post-operative care can be purchased for a fraction of the cost in a foreign country. Medical tourism can save a patient literally tens of thousands of dollars without skimping on the quality of care, as long as you are smart about where you choose to go. With that kind of savings and service it is no wonder that over 500,000 Americans are going under the knife overseas every year.


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