Well Be­ing

Jour­ney to Well­ness – Health­care is a global busi­ness

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENT -

Mex­ico ranks as the top med­i­cal tourism des­ti­na­tion in the world

Time was when the last place a trav­eler wanted to be while on the road was in a hos­pi­tal – much less mak­ing a trip es­pe­cially to un­dergo med­i­cal treat­ments. Then a mi­nor mir­a­cle oc­curred: trav­el­ers be­gan to dis­cover that pro­ce­dures in for­eign lands could be safe, ef­fec­tive and best of all, less costly.

What started as se­cre­tive‘medi-cations,’ where a few days away from the of­fice might mean a lit­tle nip‘n’tuck, has turned into a well-re­spected, and multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try. In fact, the spread of the so-called med­i­cal tourism mar­ket has un­der­scored the global scope of medicine, a phe­nom­e­non that’s a direct out­growth of a low-cost world-wide travel in­dus­try.

New mar­ket re­search pre­dicts that the world med­i­cal tourism mar­ket will reach $143.8 bil­lion by 2022, grow­ing at an im­pres­sive an­nual rate of 15.7 from 2015 to 2022. There are two main driv­ers be­hind this boom­ing mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to the study en­ti­tled World Med­i­cal Tourism Mar­ket - Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Fore­casts, 2014 - 2022, pub­lished by Al­lied Mar­ket Re­search.

The first is the sup­ply side of the equa­tion; af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble qual­ity health­care ser­vices are avail­able in a sur­pris­ing num­ber of ma­jor cen­ters around the world. The sec­ond fac­tor is an un­for­tu­nate rise in de­mand; in­creas­ing in­ci­dence of can­cer and other se­ri­ous ail­ments will drive the pa­tients to seek su­pe­rior health­care they can af­ford wher­ever they can find it.

And find­ing they are, and in some un­ex­pected places. For ex­am­ple, it prob­a­bly comes as no shock that North Amer­ica ac­counted for about one-third of the global med­i­cal tourism in 2015. How­ever it may be sur­pris­ing to learn that Mex­ico is the mar­ket leader in North Amer­ica fol­lowed by the US; in fact, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by Trans­parency Mar­ket Re­search, Mex­ico ranks as the top med­i­cal tourism

des­ti­na­tion in the world, host­ing the largest num­ber of med­i­cal tourists, es­pe­cially pa­tients from North and Latin Amer­ica.

Mex­ico’s pop­u­lar­ity is due to the avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able med­i­cal care for sev­eral dis­eases, most no­tably can­cer, which con­tin­ues to be the high­est rev­enue­gen­er­at­ing seg­ment in the med­i­cal tourism mar­ket. Treat­ments can be ex­pen­sive and pro­longed, hence pa­tients tend to seek des­ti­na­tions that of­fer af­ford­able costs, but that are still rel­a­tively close to home.

Eastern Stars

An­other third of med­i­cal tourism dol­lars are spend in Asia-Pa­cific, which is the fastest grow­ing re­gion, ow­ing to the in­creas­ing treat­ment suc­cess rates cou­pled with the af­ford­able price range. Within the Asia-Pa­cific med­i­cal tourism mar­ket, Sin­ga­pore, Korea, In­dia, Thai­land and Malaysia are among the Asian coun­tries which are in­vest­ing most in fa­cil­i­ties, treat­ment op­tions and per­son­nel.

Thai­land is one coun­try that came early to med­i­cal tourism. While to­day it’s world fa­mous for cos­metic surgery, it has also be­come one of the top des­ti­na­tions for eye and den­tal surgery. The list of Thai­land’s med­i­cal tourist ar­rivals is topped by pa­tients from Ja­pan, fol­lowed by those from Asia and the Mid­dle East with the US and South Asia com­ing in fourth and fifth. Thai­land is also see­ing an uptick in med­i­cal tourists from Great Bri­tain, Tai­wan and China, Aus­tralia, France and Ger­many, among oth­ers.

Sin­ga­pore, which has been longestab­lished as med­i­cal des­ti­na­tion, spe­cial­izes in or­gan trans­plants, can­cer treat­ment, car­diac surgery and fer­til­ity treat­ment. And Malaysia is mak­ing its mark in cos­metic surgery and com­pre­hen­sive health check­ups, as is Korea, which also spe­cial­izes in stem cell treat­ment and spine surgery.

Through­out the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, rea­son­ably-priced med­i­cal pro­ce­dures are avail­able on re­quest and of­ten only a short plane ride away. Trav­el­ers can also use the cost savings – up to 80 per­cent com­pared with Western fa­cil­i­ties – to in­clude some time for rest and re­cu­per­a­tion, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing on ser­vice or qual­ity.

In­creas­ingly In­dia is tak­ing the lead in de­vel­op­ing so­phis­ti­cated med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, draw­ing pa­tients from sur­round­ing coun­tries with less ad­vanced health­care sys­tems, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myan­mar and cen­tral Asia. As a con­se­quence, the coun­try has seen growth in med­i­cal tourism rev­enues to $3.9 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a 2014 re­port from Deloitte.

The Asian eco­nomic cri­sis of the 1990s de­creased na­tional health fund­ing in In­dia, and cre­ated de­mand for pri­vate med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, en­cour­ag­ing the rise of the cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal. To­day, cor­po­ra­tions like Fortis Health­care, Narayana Health and The Apollo Group are multi-bil­lion dol­lar or­ga­ni­za­tions with pri­vate hos­pi­tal chains around the re­gion.

Fortis, for ex­am­ple, boasts 54 health care fa­cil­i­ties (in­clud­ing projects un­der de­vel­op­ment) through­out In­dia, as well as in Dubai, Mau­ri­tius and Sri Lanka with over 10,000 po­ten­tial beds, over 260 di­ag­nos­tic cen­ters and more than 17,000 em­ploy­ees.

Mean­while else­where in the world, a ris­ing num­ber of coun­tries are striv­ing to be­come ma­jor ex­porters of med­i­cal ser­vices. Some of the key coun­tries that have emerged as prom­i­nent play­ers in the med­i­cal tourism field may be even more sur­pris­ing: the list in­cludes Costa Rica, Brazil, Tur­key, Poland, Dubai, Is­rael, and – two ris­ing play­ers to keep an eye on in com­ing years – Kenya and Rwanda.

Ac­cord­ing to a new anal­y­sis from Frost & Sul­li­van, the lat­ter two may see sub­stan­tial in­vest­ments in their health­care sys­tems in com­ing years due to a di­verse set of forces, in­clud­ing fa­vor­able eco­nomic fac­tors, a sup­port­ive reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment and a high dis­ease bur­den. De­mand for qual­ity health­care ser­vices from a ris­ing mid­dle class in both Kenya and Rwanda, to­gether with height­ened aware­ness of the need for bet­ter med­i­cal op­tions will drive up per capita ex­pen­di­ture in that sec­tor.

Rx for the Right Choice

Not sur­pris­ing, the in­crease in the reach of In­ter­net has played a huge role in the growth of med­i­cal tourism world­wide. Got a di­ag­no­sis? Need surgery? Want less costly, equally ef­fec­tive treat­ments? The an­swers to th­ese and count­less other med­i­cal ques­tions are avail­able through myr­iad re­sources on­line.

And therein lies the rub. More than shop­ping for any other prod­uct or ser­vice, se­lect­ing a health­care provider from the In­ter­net re­quires a larger than usual dose of caveat emp­tor – buyer be­ware.

The rapid ex­pan­sion of the mar­ket has given rise to var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about med­i­cal tourism such as the Med­i­cal Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion and the Europe Med­i­cal Tourism Alliance. In ad­di­tion, ma­jor mar­ket play­ers have es­tab­lished overseas pro­mo­tional of­fices, and na­tional tourism de­part­ments have be­come acutely aware of the sheer vol­ume of med­i­cal tourist dol­lars, lead­ing them to tout their coun­tries as cen­ter of ex­cel­lence in spe­cific health­care ser­vices.

All this in­for­ma­tion is great to have, but of­ten mud­dies rather than clar­i­fies the wa­ters. How­ever it’s im­por­tant to do your due dili­gence; look for trust­wor­thy ac­cred­i­ta­tion, eval­u­ate the med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties’ per­son­nel, equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy, pay at­ten­tion to pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion re­views and – es­pe­cially in places where there may be a lan­guage bar­rier – con­sider pa­tient com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Although med­i­cal tourism can pro­vide ex­cel­lent med­i­cal care at com­par­a­tively cheap prices, costs in some re­gions are ris­ing. At the same time new pro­ce­dures are con­stantly be­ing in­tro­duced, which may mean bet­ter out­comes here at home, re­gard­less of costs. Ul­ti­mately, it’s about mak­ing an in­formed choice: Where in the world should you get your med­i­cal treat­ment?

re­gion, rea­son­ably-priced med­i­cal pro­ce­dures are of­ten only a short plane ride away

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