Medical tourism, also known as health tourism, surgical tourism, or medical travel, is when an individual, couple, or group travels abroad to seek medical care. People who travel abroad for medical purposes are classified as Medical Tourists. They are usually motivated by myriad factors, including affordability, lack of treatments in their country of origin, and better insurance coverage for medical treatment abroad.
Medical tourists can be further classified into different categories depending on their circumstances, motivation to travel abroad for medical purposes, and the type of medical treatment sought.
Proper Medical Tourists
Proper medical tourists travel to another country with the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment due to reasons such as lower costs, lack of insurance coverage, and availability of medicines abroad. Proper medical tourists view the vacationing aspect of traveling abroad to another country as a secondary motivational factor.
Unofficially classified as accidental medical tourists, these individuals seek medical treatment abroad due to unexpected circumstances such as accidents or the sudden onset of a medical issue or illness. Medicated tourists extend their stay abroad because they are not well enough to travel home. Their medical problems or diseases are usually attributed to exotic climates and unfamiliar foods.
A mere patient is a medical tourist who travels abroad for medical treatment only. These medical tourists are usually under a time constraint or restricted by a limited budget and do not partake in any vacationing activities such as sightseeing while abroad. Medical tourists who undergo intense surgeries such as bariatric surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, or neurosurgery are restricted by their recovery. Thus, they are also mere patients as they are not permitted to travel or partake in strenuous activities.
This is the primary type of tourist that saturates the medical tourism industry. Vacationing patients are individuals who travel abroad to seek medical treatment but also take advantage of being in a new country to partake in a variety of tourist activities such as sightseeing, shopping, and other activities approved by their doctors.
Medical Evacuation Patients
Medical evacuation patients are individuals who are relocated for medical purposes due to accidents, civil war, an outbreak of disease, or political reasons. Soldiers transported out of the battle due to injury are an example of medical evacuation patients.
Medical tourism destinations depend on the medical tourist and what kind of treatment they seek. Still, over the years, certain countries in Europe and Asia have emerged in the medical tourism industry to specialize in specific medical fields.
In Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe, medical tourism has blossomed and boomed over the years due partly to a European Union directive that allows patients to cross borders to seek medical care. Central and Eastern Europe are also huge draws for medical tourists because of the picturesque landscapes and historic cities with fairytale-like architecture. In particular, the following European countries have earned a reputation for high-quality medical care in the following medical fields or specializations:
- The Czech Republic has garnered a reputation for top-notch cataract surgery and cosmetic surgery.
- Poland and Hungary attract individuals seeking high-quality dental care.
- Germany has become a hotspot for UK citizens seeking orthopedic surgery at cost-effective rates.
- Turkey has become a popular medical tourist destination for cardiac, cancer, and orthopedic care patients. The Turkish government has supported this industry by promoting discounts for medical tourists who fly on Turkish Airlines.
The medical tourism industry thrives in Asia due to its reputation for its specialized medical expertise and lower waiting times for treatment. Governments of certain Asian countries also make it a point to market their medical expertise, high-quality hospitals, and availability of medicines by setting up international service departments whose sole goal is to assist overseas patients with everything from booking appointments to finding accommodation. Some population Asian destinations for medical tourists include:
- Singapore is renowned for offering high-quality diagnoses, oncology services, organ transplants, and stem cell and regenerative therapies.
- Malaysia is a massive draw for fertility tourists seeking IVF treatments, medical tourists seeking executive health screenings, and medical tourists seeking treatments for skin conditions such as third-degree burns.
- Taiwan, where medical tourists venture to seek cancer treatments, cosmetic procedures, and weight loss procedures
- China offers medical tourists a combination of high-tech, high-quality hospitals with contemporary approaches to medicine as well as traditional methods of medical treatment.
- India has a world-renown reputation for cardiovascular treatments, orthopedic procedures, and cancer diagnoses. India has also attracted medical tourists from certain countries where the Indian government allows them to stay in the country for thirty days or even up to a year, depending on the medical treatment they seek.
In conclusion, individuals who seek medical treatment abroad are known as medical tourists. Depending on their needs and circumstance, these individuals can be further categorized into different types of medical tourists. Their medical destination is dependent on the type of medical treatment they seek. Still, essential destinations in Europe and Asia have emerged in the medical tourism industry as specializing in certain medical practices and treatments. There are fewer visa limitations on how long they can stay for medical purposes.