Chapter 1 Page 9 | Medical Tourism: A Moving Target

Among the great advantages of the Internet as a publishing medium is that it can be updated quickly and efficiently, and among the loveliest examples of this is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. “Medical Tourism” was born as an entry in Wikipedia in June 2004; the initial entry read, in its entirety:

“Medical tourism is the practice to visit countries with low prices and buy services in their private hospitals.”

By September 2005, the entry had expanded to:

“Medical tourism is a term that has risen from the rapid growth of an industry where people from all around the world are traveling to other countries to obtain medical, dental, and surgical care while at the same time touring, vacationing, and fully experiencing the attractions of the countries that they are visiting. A combination of many factors has lead to the recent increase in popularity of medical tourism: exorbitant costs of health care in industrialized nations, ease and affordability of international travel, favorable currency exchange rates in the global economy, rapidly improving technology and standards of care in many countries of the world, and most importantly the proven safety of health care in select foreign nations have all led to the rise of medical tourism. More and more people are traveling abroad as an affordable, enjoyable, and safe alternative to having medical, dental, and surgical procedures done in their home countries.

“Medical tourists are generally residents of the industrialized nations of the world and primarily come from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Western Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. But more and more, people from many other countries of the world are seeking out places where they can both enjoy a vacation and obtain medical treatment at a reasonable price.

“Currently, medical tourists are traveling in large numbers to India, the East Indies, and South America — three places where the quality of health care is equal to anywhere else in the world and yet the cost is significantly lower. These regions also offer numerous options for touring, sightseeing, shopping, exploring, and even lounging on sundrenched beaches. Although India, the East Indies, and South America are currently the most popular choices for medical tourists, the industry is growing so rapidly that more and more countries and medical centers around the world are beginning to tailor services aimed specifically at medical tourists, and the expectation is that the options for where medical tourists can choose to travel will continue to increase at a rapid pace.

“A myriad of options exist for medical tourists,  from purely elective procedures such as rhinoplasty, liposuction, breast augmentation, orthodontics, and Lasik, to more serious and life-saving procedures such as joint replacements, bone marrow transplants, and cardiac bypass surgery. Medical tourists can now obtain essentially any type of medical or surgical procedure abroad in a safe and effective manner for a fraction of the cost that they would face in their home countries. The cost savings are enormous. For example, for the same price as a week-long vacation for two in Hawaii that includes airfare and boarding and lodging, a couple can travel to the natural and lush beauty of Kerala on India’s southeast coast to include airfare, boarding and lodging, personal tour guide/concierge, and Lasik corrective surgery for two.

“The average cost of private heart surgery in the United States is $50,000. That same operation with comparable rates of success and complications costs only $10,000 in the finest and most state-of-theart hospital in Bombay. A bone marrow transplant that costs $250,000 in the U.S. costs only $25,000 in India. Large price disparities such as these exist across the board for numerous medical and surgical procedures. And because of favorable currency exchange rates for medical tourists, the costs associated with accommodations, food, shopping, and sight-seeing are similarly very favorable.”

Phenomena come and phenomena go, of course. But the evidence is that medical tourism will be with us for a while. It has just begun.

(Current Wikipedia Entry for “Medical Tourism)

End, Chapter 1 Beauty from Afar

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