You might be wondering why anyone would travel to a foreign country in order to receive medical care? Why place your health in the hands of a total stranger in a country you've never visited? Why pay for extra airfare and hotel accommodations? Why expose yourself to the potential dangers of treatment abroad?
For many procedures, it's often more expensive to receive treatment at home than it is to purchase a plane ticket, book a hotel, and pay for all medical expenses out of pocket in a foreign country. This is especially true in popular medical tourism destinations such as India, Thailand, and Singapore.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently detailed an account of a self-employed carpenter who had an acute mitral-valve prolapse that required surgery. Estimated fees at the nearest hospital approached $200,000, half of which needed to be paid in advance. After some more digging around, this patient was able to find a hospital in Texas that could perform the procedure for $40,000. After some more research, the patient decided to fly to New Delhi, India where he had the procedure performed for less than $7,000. Shortly after returning to North Carolina, the patient went back to work with a healthy heart.
Some countries heavily regulate (or even ban) certain elective procedures or complicated surgeries. Hip resurfacing, for example, was only recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, despite its widespread use and success rate at many popular medical tourism destinations around the world.
In other cases, treatments are so prohibitively expensive that they are impossible to afford in your home country. A coronary bypass, for example, might cost almost $80,000 in the United States. That same procedure costs just over $10,000 in India.
With medical tourism, you can travel to parts of the world where hospitals specialize in the aforementioned procedures. And you won't necessarily have to break the bank either. Equally important, wait times tend to be considerably less if you plan your medical vacation accordingly.
Because popular medical destinations actively recruit patients from abroad, they do everything they can to eliminate wait times, provide patients with options, and ensure optimal care. In 2005, for example, luxury medical facility, Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand, treated 55,000 patients from the United States alone.
Imagine recuperating after surgery on a white sand beach while sipping island drinks and receiving full-body massages. Think about all the exotic foods, tourist attractions, and shopping you could enjoy. The fact of the matter is, most of us need medical treatment from time to time, and most of us plan vacations every year or so. Why not combine the two into an all-out medical vacation that provides you with everything you need, want, and desire?
Health care costs are constantly on the rise in countless Western countries. In the US alone, it is already a multi-billion dollar industry that shows no sign of stopping (worldwide it is over $3 trillion US). But why pay exorbitant prices at home when you can travel abroad and receive the same treatment (if not better) from a fully certified medical facility for a fraction of the price? Until countries like the US, Japan, and France implement aggressive strategies to lower prices and reduce waiting times, it is likely that the global medical tourism industry will continue to flourish.