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Medical Tourism

The global growth in the flow of patients and health professionals as well as medical technology, capital funding and regulatory regimes across national borders has given rise to new patterns of consumption and production of healthcare services over recent decades. A significant new element of a growing trade in healthcare has involved the movement of patients across borders in the pursuit of medical treatment and health; a phenomenon commonly termed “medical tourism”. Medical tourism occurs when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment. This treatment may span the full range of medical services, but most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment. There has been a shift towards patients from richer, more developed nations travelling to less developed countries to access health services, largely driven by the low-cost treatments available in the latter and helped by cheap flights and internet sources of information.

Despite high-profile media interest and coverage, there is a lack of hard research evidence on the role and impact of medical tourism for low-income countries. Whilst there is an increasing amount written on the subject of medical tourism, such material is hardly ever evidence-based. Medical tourism introduces a range of attendant risks and opportunities for patients

The review details what is currently known about the flow of medical tourists between countries and discusses the interaction of the demand for, and supply of, medical tourism services. It highlights the different organisations and groups involved in the industry, including the range of intermediaries and ancillary services that have grown up to service the industry. Treatment processes (including consideration of quality, safety and risk) and system-level implications for countries of origin and destination (financial issues; equity; and the impact on providers and professionals of medical tourism) are highlighted. The review examines harm, liability and redress in medical tourism services with a particular focus on the legal, ethical and quality-of-care considerations.

In light of this, our broad review outlines key health policy considerations, and draws attention to significant gaps in the research evidence. The central conclusion from this review is that there is a lack of systematic data concerning health services trade, both overall and at a disaggregated level in terms of individual modes of delivery, and of specific countries. This is both in terms of the trade itself, as well as its implications. Mechanisms are needed that help us track the balance of trade around medical tourism on a regular basis. The evidence base is scant to enable us to assess who benefits and who loses out at the level of system, programme, organisation and treatment.

There are several categories of medical patients who will find doctors in a foreign country to operate on them. Medical tourism companies specialize in finding the exact doctor who will be able to operate on you providing the special care that you require at prices that lie within your budget.

With a cut back by several medical companies on insurance coverage, most people find their insurance plans insufficient. Hence medical processes seem more expensive due to high payments, out-of-pocket expenses and co payments which are caused by the lack of medical insurance coverage. Medical tourism companies find cheap solutions for such patients which in addition will not take as long as it does back home either. Medical tourism in India and other similar countries has been growing well for this very fact.

Medical tourism is basically traveling to another country seeking medical treatment. Initially medical tourism concentrated on specialized treatment where certain specialty doctors were not available in a country and hence patients from that country went to obtain surgery abroad. With a spurt in international health care, health travel has been growing. People travel to foreign countries just to get even minor surgeries done because it turns out to be cheaper than in their home country. Now who should take up medical tourism? Medical travel caters to a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and regions.

Elective surgery is one kind of medical operation. These procedures which include cosmetic surgery, dental, plastic and wellness treatment plans are usually not covered by an insurance scheme.

For people who have medical insurance, surgery at home may seem the best option.. But in certain cases, the out of pocket expenditure that you will incur during a medical procedure in your country may well itself be much more than what it may cost for the whole operation in another country. So cost savings is a major driving force with regard to medical travel.

With international health care on par with American and European Medical centers, it seems like a great idea to run over to a new country for a medical procedure, rather than waiting over a long time period for it. Health travel is also a viable way of visiting a new country as well and is becoming a fashionable concept. With personalized services and very affordable rates, medical tourism in India, Singapore, Thailand and Latin America and the world over is becoming hot business.

As many as thirty million Kenyans are not insured. This is because most of these people are not employed, live below poverty line or are self employed and when it comes to medical expenditure they are found dipping into their hard earned savings or selling assets such as land, houses, livestock or conducting unsuccessful Harambes. According to a study, half of the personal bankruptcy cases are related to medical expenditure. For these people medical travel is the cheapest and best way to find doctors who would be able to serve them at affordable rates.

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The global growth in the flow of patients and health professionals as well as medical technology, capital funding and regulatory regimes across national borders has given rise to new patterns of consumption and production of healthcare services over recent decades. A significant new element of a growing trade in healthcare has involved the movement of patients across borders in the pursuit of medical treatment and health; a phenomenon commonly termed “medical tourism”.

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