What exactly is medical tourism?
Medical tourism is the practice of traveling to another country in order to receive medical attention, be it heart surgery, breast implants, a hip replacement, or dental work. Depending on the location and procedure, a medical vacation can cost 50%, 30%, or even 10% of what you would pay at home.
Even when you factor in air fare, hotels, travel insurance, car rentals, shopping, and dining, many medical vacations are substantially more affordable than domestic health care is. For example, a heart valve operation that might require $100,000 in the States could cost well under $10,000 in a country like India where lower labor costs help drive down the price considerably. The same is true in popular medical tourism destinations like Thailand, Argentina, Singapore, and Hungary.
Ten years ago, medical tourism usually referred to cosmetic, plastic, or elective surgery. Increasingly, however, patients are receiving life-saving medical operations such as heart surgery. Hip replacements, fertility work, and cancer treatments have also become quite popular in recent years. In addition, some medical and dental destinations offer procedures that are unavailable in certain Western countries. Hip resurfacing, for example, was only recently approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, even though it had been available in India for quite some time. We don't always recommend signing up for experimental treatments, but certain medical conditions warrant exploring any and all available options.
Thanks to Internet technology, more affordable international travel, and major advances in medical science, medical tourism is becoming less of a novelty and more of a global trend. But in truth, medical tourism has existed for millennia. To learn more about medical tourism's development over the years, please visit our History of Medical Tourism section.
Although dental tourism is technically part of the larger medical tourism industry, many would argue that it deserves a category of its own due to its specialized nature. Throughout this site, there are numerous articles, FAQs, and sections devoted to dental tourism. However, as a general rule, we rely on the broader term of "medical tourism" to refer to the entire health vacation industry.