Medical Tourism- Meaning, Types, Challenges

What is medical tourism? 

When people are bound to travel from one place to another across international borders in order to get required medical treatment, then it is referred to as medical tourism. In other words, millions of people travelling abroad for a small dental treatment to any major plastic surgery comes under medical tourism. No wonder the medical industry is flooded with billions of dollars all over the world each year. Now, what do we call such people who are travelling for treatment? They are the medical tourists. It can be defined as a person who crosses international borders to get healthcare being in a unique environment, which is not familiar to their own. 

“Companies are the new countries and countries are the new companies.” it brings us to the level of competition that has risen to attract medical tourists from all over the world to their own country. If we talk of Japan, then its government is formulating such policies under which more foreign patients can be admitted in existing no. of hospitals. There is quite a rush as to who gets whom in medical tourism. However, medical tourism can be a cause of problems for locals as now the wealthy foreigners get treatment by paying greater amounts leading to hike in medical prices. At present, it is predicted by the experts that there will be massive revenue growth in medical tourism in the coming future. 

As quoted by McKinskey, when a person who’s primary and explicit purpose in travelling is to obtain medical treatment in foreign country, excluding emergency or wellness tourists, expatriates seeking care in their country of residence, travelling to neighboring regions in search of nearest available care is referred to as medical tourism.

History of MD: 

Traces of medical tourism can be seen in the past as well when Greeks or Egyptians would gather in huge numbers to get into hot springs or bath just to cure some disease of theirs. In parts of Europe, medical tourism was merely based on spa and seawater treatment because of the availability of mineral springs and sea coasts. But, now is totally a different case as people travel to get healthcare for special causes which has changed the term to health tourism. Since olden times, the priority of a man has been to stay utmost fit and healthy wherever they are. This desire has pulled medical tourists to different parts of the world in order to find a cure. Medical tourism is one of the fastest developing fields which will definitely expand its horizon in future as well, bringing enormous growth and revenue in the health sector. 

Types of MD:

Under the main head of medical tourism lie two other branches: 

  • International medical tourism:

When people travel to another country due to affordable, highly accessible and good quality medical services, then it is known as international medical tourism. It is further divided into two forms of tourism: 

  • Inbound medical tourism:

When people travel outside their native country to a different country. Then it is considered as inbound tourism for that country. 

  • Outbound medical tourism:

When medical tourists travel to a foreing region in order to get medical care, then it is known as outbound tourism. 

  • Domestic medical tourism:

It is where people dwelling in a country travel to another city, region or area to get any sort of medical treatment then it is called domestic tourism. They generally do so because of the affordable and high quality care in another city. 

Challenges faced by medical tourism: 

Let us read more about the probable challenges faced in this particular industry. They are as follows: 

  • Follow up problems:

once the patient returns to his/ her native land, then there is no effective mechanism for doing follow up with the patient.  This is a great concern as it created blockages in the medical tourism industry.

  • Language is a barrier:

It is very important for medical staff to be multilingual if they are implementing medical tourism in the institutions. Otherwise, it is hard to understand or communicate with the patients prior to the treatment. 

  • Lack of proper infrastructure:

In medical tourism, people often travel from a developed country to a developing country for medical care. What happens is that these developing countries lack proper infrastructure like patient beds, water, electricity supply. 

  • Lack of professional behavior:

in developing countries, the medical staff lacks professionalism or is too slow in their operations. They lack basic soft skills of being warm to their patients and treating them with friendliness which is another big concern.

At last, we can conclude by saying that medical tourism has a lot of potential of growing in itself only if the above challenges are faced effectively. Once a proper mechanism is set up for this industry it can produce miraculous results and set a new standard for patient care.

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