Medical tourism: a profitable market

Published on 16/07/2021

The medical tourism market is estimated at $60 billion worldwide in 2019. It is expected to continue to grow and reach USD 140 billion by 2026. 

The globalisation of the healthcare market is increasingly visible and this does not disappoint stakeholders. The economic interests have transformed medical tourism into priority in some countries.

1. What is medical tourism?

What is medical tourism?

Many patients choose to go abroad for treatments and this is called medical tourism or health tourism.

The term tourism is used because patients often also take the opportunity to visit the country. Very often you can see hotel + spa packages in addition to your surgeries, trips or even health care + safari packages in South Africa.

It is a very lucrative market for many countries. But why would anyone want to go abroad for treatment? 

Well, there are many reasons.

In most cases, it is due to economic reasons. In fact, there are considerable price differences between countries for the same care. For example, a coronary artery bypass surgery costs $122,424 in the United States, while in India it is only $10,000.

Health tourists may also decide to go to another country for medical care because they do not receive good or sufficient medical coverage in their home country. The United States is a good example for that. It’s important to know that in 2020, about 9% of Americans did not have health insurance, that’s about 28 million people. 

Another reason is the waiting time for surgery, as in countries such as the UK and Canada it can take years to receive a transplant or surgery.

In addition, in some countries prohibited procedures lead to a significant number of people to seek care or surgery abroad. These procedures may include abortion, embryo freezing or assisted reproduction.

Many French citizens go to Spain for assisted reproduction, as the legislation is much more flexible and the subject is less taboo.

Finally, people increasingly trust hospitals in Asian and Latin American countries, as many hospitals have European or American standards. In fact, accreditation and certification programmes have been established to assess the quality of health care and medical services.

2. What type of health care services are provided abroad?

What type of health care services are provided abroad?

The different types of medical tourism are: cosmetic, elective (i. e. non-urgent), dental, organ transplantation, cardiac and orthopaedic surgery, as well as those procedures that are prohibited in some countries, as I mentioned above.

But everything is possible, such as psychiatric care, thermal treatments and other alternative medicine.

3. Why is the price difference between countries so big?

Why is the price difference between countries so big?

  • The cost of living may be lower in one country, so all costs for services and infrastructure are lower.
  • As the benefits are paid directly by the patient, there are only a few administrative costs
  • Most hospitals are not teaching hospitals, so there are no costs related to research or teaching.

4. Which countries are the most popular for medical tourism? 

Which countries are the most popular for medical tourism?

Singapore is a prime destination for medical tourism and has the largest number of US-accredited hospitals in the region.

Thailand is considered a world leader in medical tourism, with more than 50 JCI-accredited medical centres (Joint Commission International) . A surgery costs are about 50 % lower than in Europe. For years this has been attracting many patients who want to change their gender.

India is famous for cardiac and orthopaedic surgery. In 2015 it was the third most popular destination for this type of tourism.

Brazil is the main destination for medical tourism related to plastic surgery. Did you know that until 2014 it was possible to perform cosmetic surgeries on your animals in Brazil? You could have your dogs' wrinkles removed, your cat's ears lifted, etc.

Turkey is also known for its medical tourism, and continues to invest in this sector. President Erdogan has even made it one of his government's priorities. Turkish Airlines even offers discounts on its flights for this type of tourism.

Of course, this list is far from being complete.

5. Using a translation company 

Using a translation company

If you want to travel abroad for medical treatment, you can use an interpreter who can make it easier to understand the conversations with health professionals or translate your medical records and treatments.

If you are a healthcare professional and want to catch international clients or if you are an organisation specialising in medical tourism, do not hesitate to contact a translation company to translate your website and all your documentation.

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Sana Tayssir's picture
Sana Tayssir

Marketing and sales assistant at AbroadLink Traductions. Sana Tayssir is currently in her second year of a Master's degree in English at the University Jean Moulin Lyon 3. She also holds a Bachelor's degree in English language, literature and civilization.

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