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Medical Tourism: What is It and Why is It So Popular?

If you know someone who needed to fly abroad to seek treatment for their condition, then you’ve probably come across “medical tourism” before. The term might seem inappropriate without context, implying that seeking medical help could somewhat be tied in with something as light as tourism.

What is Medical Tourism?

Of course, it’s not that simple. According to the CDC, medical tourism refers to the act of traveling to another country for medical care. There is a reason it is also known as international surgery or surgery abroad. It is an intentional move on the patient’s part to receive treatment overseas.

This is not to be confused with patients who undergo unplanned surgeries in a foreign country because of unprecedented accidents, injuries, or illnesses while they are there. The CDC notes that an estimate of over a thousand Americans travel abroad for medical treatment each year.

If you think this is plenty, you’ll be surprised just how quickly this number can grow. Research shows that medical tourism is expected to grow at a rate of 21.4 percent from 2017 to 2023. This quick rise in numbers could be due to several reasons.

Medical Tourism and Patient Mobility: More Frequent Than You Think

Medical tourism is appealing for a variety of reasons, ranging from saving up on medical costs to being an immigrant who chooses to be operated in their country of origin.

According to research, the most common procedures patients undergo medical tourism trips involve dentistry, heart surgery, and cosmetic surgery. To become better acquainted with this concept and why it happens, here are the usual reasons patients prefer treatment abroad.

  • Lower Costs

One of the main reasons patients seek overseas care is due to the significantly lower costs in surgery and other medical operations. For someone that needs to undergo an operation not covered by their insurance, or if they don’t have health insurance at all, the cost of surgery makes all the difference.

Not limited to surgeries, medical tourism also refers to patients going abroad for non-invasive treatments. So if you’re thinking of treating your diving-related illness without spending too much, you can just fly overseas to undergo treatment from much more economical decompression or hyperbaric chambers.

  • Seeking Procedures Currently Not Available in the Country

Apart from saving up on costs, sometimes, patients are forced to seek treatment overseas because the medical attention they need is not available in their home country. This happens quite a lot and still contributes to the overall percentage of patients who have participated in medical tourism.

  • Insurance Incentives

In relation to saving up on medical costs, often, patients find themselves seeking care abroad because of insurance incentives. Insurance companies offer financial incentives like discounts for patients that choose to undergo surgery overseas. Other insurers offer much better options like arranging for travel, accommodation, and, sometimes, postoperative care if necessary for the patient.

These may seem lavish, but insurance companies usually save more when surgeries are performed abroad than in the country itself. Such a deal might be too good to pass up for a patient who wants the best kind of care within their budget.

Medical tourism is part of health tourism and has a long-standing history. As there is a strong need for it, whether the drive is financial or quality of care, it will only continue to rise in the future.

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