Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT: INTERNATIONAL -

’m off to Africa on sa­fari… and for a hip re­place­ment.” Sounds bizarre, but the de­ci­sion to travel thou­sands of miles for a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure in a strange coun­try has be­come al­most com­mon­place. Throw in the odd “sa­fari” or day trip and you have what is loosely termed “med­i­cal tourism”. While not all med­i­cal tourists ac­tively seek the tourism as­pect to­gether with their med­i­cal needs, the trend has gained mo­men­tum.

So why do peo­ple elect to travel to an­other coun­try for a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure? For some it might be a lack of med­i­cal ser­vices in their coun­try. Oth­ers, like those in coun­tries such as the US and UK, are driven abroad by ex­or­bi­tant med­i­cal costs.

The cost of qual­ity health­care, in­creas­ing well above the CPI, is one of the key fac­tors driv­ing pa­tients to pur­sue in­ter­na­tional health­care op­tions. A re­port, pub­lished by Deloitte found that two in five of sur­veyed re­spon­dents would be in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing treat­ment abroad if qual­ity was com­pa­ra­ble to that of the US, and the sav­ings were 50% or more. The re­port also found that 37% of baby boomers would con­sider trav­el­ling to a for­eign coun­try for elec­tive pro­ce­dures, where in South Africa they would pay only 30-40% of what they would pay in the US. For US cit­i­zens, sav­ings of up to 85% can be had for those will­ing to travel as far as In­dia, Malaysia or Thai­land. They can also save up to 65% by trav­el­ling closer to home to coun­tries such as Brazil or Costa Rica, a coun­try that brought in $196m from med­i­cal tourism in 2012. Thai­land is an­other coun­try with a big slice of the med­i­cal tourism pie. Al­though not alone in its pur­suit of a larger piece of the pie, hav­ing the largest pri­vate hos­pi­tal in South­east Asia, which alone at­tracts around 400 000 in­ter­na­tional pa­tients an­nu­ally, def­i­nitely helps. While ex­act fig­ures are dif­fi­cult to ob­tain or con­firm, other coun­tries too are cash­ing in on the med­i­cal tourism mar­ket with Sin­ga­pore an­tic­i­pat­ing a $4.3bn gain in med­i­cal tourism this year, while In­dia pur­port­edly e x pects to s ee a $ 2. 3bn i ncrease.

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