The Phenomenon of Medical Tourism

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is nothing new. As far back as 300BC people travelled far from their home countries to visit the health centres and therapeutic temples of Ancient Greece, renowned for their healing properties.

What is new, however, is the scope and size of this burgeoning industry. Last year, the global medical tourism market grossed over $32 billion and is set to reach a staggering $99.3 billion by 2025. Patients from the UK account for a large proportion of the overall market, with over 200,000 Brits now travelling for health purposes every year.

But what’s fuelling this growth? Where are people travelling to and exactly what procedures and treatments are they having done? We take a closer look…

Why Are People Opting for Medical Travel?

The reasons for medical tourism are complex and varied. Current research, however, indicates that the decision is usually influenced by the state of domestic health systems, as well as personal circumstances. For British medical travellers, the most common motivations seem to be:

  • Low Costs – Treatments abroad can be found at prices a lot lower than those offered by private providers back home.
  • No Waiting – Treatments from the NHS often involve lengthy waits, in some cases up to 18 weeks. Whereas many overseas facilities offer immediate services.
  • Specialisms – Many medical tourism destinations specialise in certain areas, such as dentistry or ophthalmology. It seems that those not bound by cost want to access treatment from the very best clinics and leading physicians.

Where Can You Travel to for Treatment?

The beauty of medical tourism is that you are free to travel absolutely anywhere. Yet, as many British people are initially drawn to medical travel as a way to avoid pricey private care back home, it should be no surprise that they tend to travel to lower cost European countries, especially those in Eastern Europe.

Plus current law, which allows British citizens to seek medical treatment anywhere in the EU and then have the costs refunded by the NHS, provides an extra incentive to travel to Europe.

Internationally, however, the top 10 destinations are:

  • 1) Thailand
  • 2) Hungary
  • 3) Spain
  • 4) Poland
  • 5) Mexico
  • 6) Turkey
  • 7) Germany
  • 8) The United Arab Emirates
  • 9) India
  • 10) Costa Rica

What Treatments Are Available?

Traditionally, cosmetic treatments, like dental implants, liposuction and hair transplants, seemed to be the most widely available. Yet as the market has grown so too has the range of treatments on offer. These days whatever treatment you require, from breast implants to gastric bypasses and from high replacements to IVF, you’re sure to find it in this ever-expanding sector. With the most common procedures relating to the following specialisms:

  • 1) Dentistry
  • 2) Cosmetic Surgery
  • 3) Ophthalmology
  • 4) Hair Transplants
  • 5) Gastric Surgeries
  • 6) Fertility Treatments
  • 7) Orthopaedics
  • 8) Dermatology
  • 9) Cardiology
  • 10) Oncology

Is Medical Tourism for Me?

Travelling abroad for medical treatment offers numerous advantages – cheaper prices, a more efficient and quicker service plus the chance to experience a new country – but it’s not for everyone. It means being away from home and travelling considerable distances when you’re at your most vulnerable. So make sure you think long and hard before making your decision.