Since medical tourism is still in its early stages of development, acquiring useful data regarding this market is quite challenging; however, it is expected to see significant growth in the upcoming years.
The high price of medical treatment in most of the world’s developed nations has led to the creation of the medical tourism market. This market allows patients to travel to other locations for less expensive, yet more advanced treatment.
According to the latest information available, the value of the global medical tourism market was worth an estimated $10.5 billion US dollars in 2012. By 2019, the worth of this market is projected to be approximately $32.5 billion US dollars. This equates to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 18 percent between 2012 and 2019.
Shared similarities in cultures, combined with geographical proximity play key roles in the growth and development of the medical tourism market.
The Medical Tourism Market Defined by Region
Medical tourism is believed to have come about as a result of the globalization of healthcare services. This industry is noted for having experienced a huge growth potential in several emerging economies, thanks to the rising amount of countries that are aiming to become key exporters of medical services.
Key countries that have become prominent centers of the medical tourism market include:
- South Korea
- Costa Rica
- The Philippines
Undoubtedly, Asia has become the leader in the medical tourism industry. The position of this country in this market is directly related to the high quality infrastructure that Asian countries use to deliver healthcare services. The low cost of treatment offered by Asian countries has also contributed to this region’s leading position in the medical tourism market. In the year 2012 alone, Asia generated more than $6.4 billion US dollars, which was procured from the treatment that was provide to an estimated 2 billion foreign patients. Thailand, for example, has become the most popular destination for people who are interested in cosmetic surgeries.
Why are these destinations so prevalent?
The regions mentioned above play a prevalent role in the medical tourism industry for a variety of reasons. Some of the most notable factors that have lead to their position in this market include:
- The investment in healthcare infrastructure provided by both governments and private sectors
- The consistent flow of foreign patients
- The commitment to acquiring international accreditation, high quality assurance, and the transparency of outcomes that they provide
- The increased savings on medical procedures for patients that are offered by these countries
- Exceptional infrastructure for tourism
- Social stability
- Political transparency
- An excellent reputation for clinical excellence
- The successful adoption of cutting-edge medical technologies
- The high availability of highly trained and experienced medical experts
What types of services are medical travelers seeking?
There are several services that medical travelers are seeking from the countries listed above. Some of the most notable services include:
- Dentistry, including general, restorative and cosmetic
- Cosmetic surgeries
- Cardiovascular treatments, such as heart transplants, angioplasties and CABGs
- Cancer treatment
- Reproductive health, such as in-vitro fertilization, fertility treatments, and women’s healthcare
- Weight loss surgeries, including gastric bypass and LAP-BAND
- Healthcare screenings, including various tests and scans
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How large is the medical tourism market?
The answer to this question is difficult to find. Estimates and forecasts for this industry vary widely, and there are disparities that arise as a result of inconsistencies in regard to reporting. There are also inconsistencies related to defining why people travel for medical reasons. Additionally, data that is acquire is difficult to verify on a country level. As such, determining the actual size of the medical tourism market is quite difficult.
With that said, it is believed that the current market size for the medical tourism industry is an estimated $45.5 billion US dollars.
Is the medical tourism industry growing?
Yes, as indicated above, this market is certainly growing, and it is expected to grow significantly.
Factors that are contributing to the growth of this market include the following:
- The aging population of the world
- The constantly rising cost of healthcare
- The reduced quality of healthcare in certain nations
What is a medical traveler?
According to Patients Beyond Boarders’, a medical traveler is any person who travels past international borders in order to receive medical treatment. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how many people travel across international borders for medical care.
How much savings does medical tourism offer?
This is a difficult question to answer; however, based on the cost of healthcare in the United States, the average cost of savings per region is estimated to be as follows:
- Costa Rica – 45 to 65 percent
- Brazil: 20 to 30 percent
- Malaysia: 65 to 80 percent
- India: 65 to 90 percent
- Mexico: 40 to 65 percent
- South Korea: 30to 45 percent
- Singapore: 25 to 40 percent
- Thailand: 50 to 75 percent
- Turkey: 50 to 65 percent
- Taiwan: 40 to 55 percent
Of course, the amount of savings is dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of coverage a patient has and the out-of-pocket costs that are associated with that coverage.
The future of the medical tourism industry
Given the ever-rising cost of healthcare and the decline in services that are offered, it is safe to say that the future of the medical tourism market is secure. Patients who are having difficulty paying for their medical care, or who want to receive a higher quality of care are finding that medical tourism is worth their while. As a result, this industry will likely grow at an unprecedented rate moving forward.
This does lead one to wonder what the future of healthcare across the globe will be like, but only the future will tell.