More than 20 million medical tourists went abroad in search of medical treatments and procedures last year in 2019. As the medical travel industry has been steadily rising every year, it would be natural to assume that 2020 will see even more people travel overseas to receive medical services. In fact, 10% of these medical tourists are 2 million Americans and it’s not surprising why.
A recent academic study determined the top 3 reasons why medical tourists travel from the United States for medical treatments.
- Naturally, the quality of medical care is a strong motivating factor.
- The cost savings is also a major reason. This is understandable given the staggering healthcare costs as well as an alarming 84 million Americans are either not insured or underinsured.
- Interestingly, the fact that the political situation in the medical tourism destination plays a large role in the decision-making process.
The other reasons medical tourists go abroad in search of quality healthcare and medical treatments are:
- reduced wait times
- highly-specialized treatments that are not available in their home country
So will this be the same for 2020?
If you are up to date with the current affairs, you’ll know the world is currently facing an unprecedented spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, which broke out late 2019.
This viral outbreak has impacted many countries with travel restrictions put in place as a response. Video telehealth consultations with GP doctors are on the rise as people are even hesitant to travel locally; which is important due to the contagious nature of the coronavirus.
Like every tourism industry, medical tourism has been affected by COVID-19. Many medical tourism trips will be postponed or cancelled, if not already, particularly if they were intending to travel to areas where the COVID-19 hotspots currently are. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that all travel has been suspended and there will be those that will take extra caution while they travel. As with any virus, it will run its course and eventually the number of cases will ease, as seen within China.
Last year, International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ), a UK-based top medical travel resource site, ran a survey with 1,000 participants to determine the 10 countries that are the most attractive and popular destinations for medical tourism:
At the time of writing, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Many governments are advising their citizens to reconsider travelling to countries such as China, Iran, Italy and South Korea due to their alarming spread of COVID-19 cases.
Therefore, South Korea, which is on our list, will be affected. It is also important to note that there are rising tensions between Turkey and Syria as well. If things do not resolve in the next few months, it’s only natural that their statuses as top medical tourism destinations would be impacted.
Nevertheless, the main reason why these countries have been nominated by medical tourists is because of their internationally accredited hospitals with a strong history of achievement and a commitment to quality healthcare.
There is no shortage of internationally-trained doctors, high-skilled and experienced medical staff as well as excellent infrastructure and medical facilities. Many of these hospitals have been accredited by the JCI Joint Commission International (JCI), an international accreditation body that sets the gold standard in health care globally.
In fact, as one of the most developed countries in the world, South Korea, has one of the most technologically-advanced technologies. Although renowned for cosmetic and plastic surgery, South Korea also excels in spinal surgery, particularly non-invasive spinal surgeries where over 20,000 cases are performed yearly.
Turkey currently boasts 34 JCI-accredited medical hospitals and have medical facilities that are affiliated with prestigious US medical centres and bodies such as John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical International. One of its best institutions, the Anadolu Medical Centre (affiliated with John Hopkins Medicine) is well-known for its cancer treatment centres.
Some countries such as Malaysia and Thailand have governments and private sectors that actively promote medical tourism. It’s not unusual to find medical tourism packages to assist foreign patients with their medical journey. Anything from visa requirements to travel arrangements such as airport pickups and accommodation is neatly packaged together. Medical tourists can fully benefit from their excellent healthcare systems and enjoy their tourist attractions with greater ease.
Search for hospitals that have international accreditation by JCI here. As the JCI only awards hospitals, laboratories and medical facilities when they meet their exceptional world-class standards, by choosing these internationally accredited facilities, you are ensured the best quality of care will be given.
It is important to note that most travel insurance only covers medical treatments in the event of an accident. We highly-advise that you research health insurance companies that cover elective or overseas procedures such as Medical Traveller Insurance.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Data obtained by IMTJ, Patient without Borders, authors Radesh Palakirthi and Frederick DeMicco, and other sources found in the links below: