Medical Tourism refers to the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities. The recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third-world countries for medical treatments because of cost consideration, though the traditional pattern still continues. Another reason for travel for medical treatment is that some treatments may not be legal in the home country, such as some fertility procedures.
Some people travel to obtain medical surgeries or other treatments. Some people go abroad for dental tourism or fertility tourism. People with rare genetic disorders may travel to another country where treatment of these conditions is better understood. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, and convalescent care and even burial services is available.
Medical tourists are subject to a variety of risks, which may include deep vein thrombosis, tuberculosis, amoebic dysentery, paratyphoid, poor post-operative care, and others.
Health tourism is a wider term for travels that focus on medical treatments and the utilization of healthcare services. It spans a wide field of health-oriented tourism ranging from preventive and health-conductive to rehabilitation and curative forms of travel, the latter being commonly referred to as Medical tourism. Wellness tourism is another related field. On the occasion of the 9th National Conference on Health Economy held in Rostock/Germany in 2013, it has been defined as (...) the branch of health and tourism economy that contributes to maintaining and restoring health and well-being in particular by using validated medical services.
Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries. The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism from the UK, whereas in the US, the main reason is cheaper prices abroad and for some countries of course the not available Medical Infrastructure viz Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and others.
Many surgery procedures performed in medical tourism destinations cost a fraction of the price they do in other countries. For example, in the United States, a liver transplant that may cost $300,000 USD, would generally cost about $91,000 USD in Taiwan and $45000 in India through India MediTourism. A large draw to medical travel is convenience and speed.
Medical tourism is a growing sector in India. In October 2015, India's medical tourism sector was estimated to be worth US$3 billion. It is projected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020. According to the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the primary reason that attracts medical value travel to India is cost-effectiveness, and treatment from accredited facilities at par with developed countries at much lower cost. The Medical Tourism Market Report - 2015 found that India was "one of the lowest cost and highest quality of all medical tourism destinations, it offers wide variety of procedures at about one-tenth the cost of similar procedures in the United States.
Foreign patients travelling to India to seek medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 numbered 171,021, 236,898, and 184,298 respectively. According to a CII-Grant Thornton report released in October 2015, Bangladeshis and Afghans accounted for 34% of foreign patients, the maximum share, primarily due to their close proximity with India and poor healthcare infrastructure. Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) accounted for 30% share of foreign medical tourist arrivals. Other major sources of patients include Africa and the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf countries in 2015, India became the top destination for African & Russians seeking medical treatment. Delhi NCR, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad received the highest number of foreign patients.
Popular medical travel worldwide destinations include: India, Turkey, Thailand Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Some people travel for assisted pregnancy, such as in-vitro fertilization, or surrogacy or freezing embryos for retro-production.
However, perceptions of medical tourism are not always positive. In places like the US, which has high standards of quality, medical tourism is viewed as risky. In some parts of the world, wider political issues can influence where medical tourists will choose to seek out health care.
Health tourism providers like “India MediTourism – one of the leading Medical Management Company offering most of it services free of cost” have developed as intermediaries who unite potential medical tourists with provider hospitals and other organizations. Companies that focus on medical value travel typically provide nurse case managers to assist patients with pre- and post-travel medical issues. They may also help provide resources for follow-up care upon the patient's return.
The typical process is as follows: the person seeking medical treatment abroad contacts India MediTourism. The India MediTourism usually requires the patient to provide a medical report, including the nature of ailment, local doctor’s opinion, medical history, and diagnosis, and may request additional information, such as x-rays or diagnostic testing results. Certified physicians or consultants may advise on the medical treatment or recommend an initial consultation with a specialist. The approximate cost of treatment, the choice of doctor and hospital, expected duration of stay, and logistical information, such as accommodation, ground transportation, and flights are discussed as well. A patient may be asked to pay an upfront deposit for treatment. For those destinations which require a visa, the patient will be given recommendation letters for a medical visa for the relevant embassy. The patient travels to the destination country, where India MediTourism assigns a Healthcare Patient Advocate, who takes care of on the ground experience, including translation, accommodation, and arranging aftercare. In the cases where patients self-pay for medical treatment, a final treatment bill will be presented upon completion of treatment. If the patient underwent surgery, there may be additional post-operative checks to discharge the patient and deem him or her "fit for flight" for the return home trip.
International healthcare accreditation:
International healthcare accreditation is the process of certifying a level of quality for healthcare providers and programs across multiple countries. International healthcare accreditation organizations certify a wide range of healthcare programs such as hospitals, primary care centers, medical transport, and ambulatory care services. India MediTourism’s most of the networked hospitals are either JCI Accredited or NABH/NABL certified or both.