Medical Tourism Statistics and Facts

An Essential Fact Sheet and Guide on Medical Tourism Statistics

Over the last few years, a new trend in the healthcare industry known as Medical Tourism, is gaining popularity among highly industrialized countries like the United States. Varying reports containing medical tourism statistics put the number of American patients seeking healthcare abroad between 500,000 to 750,000 in 2007. This is a steady increase from the previous year, which medical experts believe to have been as much as 200,000 to half a million Americans traveled out of the country for medical procedures.

These figures indicate a significant growth in the Medical Tourism industry, currently a $20 billion market, which could reach $100 billion by 2012. In 2008, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 million Americans traveled abroad to seek healthcare and this figure is expected to double by 2010. While exact statistics for medical tourism are difficult to confirm, these estimations indicate a strong potential for medical tourism in the future.

The following lists facts and relevant information related to medical tourism and its impact on the global healthcare industry.

Medical Tourism Facts: Why do people go abroad to get medical treatment?

While most would think that medical travelers seek cheap and fast medical attention, some facts in a May 2008 McKinsey and Company report regarding medical tourism indicated otherwise. The report states that 40% of medical travelers seek advanced technology, while 32% seek better healthcare. Another 15% seek faster medical services while only 9% of travelers seek lower costs as their primary consideration.

A lack of health insurance is the most common factor for medical travel.
  • Approximately 900,000 to 1.2 million foreign patients traveled to hospitals in Thailand. In Bangkok's prestigious Bumrungrad International Hospital, 58,000 U.S. patients sought treatment in their facilities in 2005, which increased to 64,000 Americans the following year.
  • Singapore benefited with the increase in medical tourists from 270,000 in 2004 to 410,000 foreign patients annually. It is estimated that this will increase to a million patients by 2012.
  • Latin America, particularly Costa Rica and Panama, are fast becoming tourist spots for medical travelers with close to 150,000 foreign patients seeking healthcare in Costa Rica in 2006.
  • Due to its close proximity to the U.S., Mexico has become a top medical tourism destination with 40,000 to 80,000 American seniors spending their retirement there with a considerable number receiving nursing home and health care.
  • Malaysia is also becoming a famous destination with 300,000 medical travelers in 2006.
  • India has also benefited with an increase in medical tourists from 150,000 in 2002 to 450,000 in 2007.

Potential Cost Savings among Nations offering Medical Services

Satisfied American patients reported gaining savings from 25% to 75% depending on the type of services required and can reach as high as 90%. Savings vary per country and depend on the type of procedure required.

Most U.S. citizens traveling abroad for medical services usually choose the following categories of medical tourism procedures:
  • dental
  • cosmetic
  • orthopedic
  • cardiovascular

Americans prefer Mexico, Costa Rica or Panama for dental services or cosmetic surgeries due to their proximity. Southeast Asia and India are the choice destinations for orthopedic and cardiovascular cases due to the high qualities of healthcare infrastructure and several U.S. accredited hospitals and physicians.
The following are some of potential savings and services that can be acquired in various medical tourism destinations.
  • Medical care in Panama would cost up to 40% to 70% less in comparison to the U.S.
  • A 40% to 50% savings in dental work and cosmetic surgery can be obtained in Hungary.
  • Mexico is a favorite destination offering 25% to 35% savings for dental and cosmetic surgery.
  • Costa Rica offers 30% to 40% savings for dental and cosmetic surgery services.
  • Brazil offers cosmetic surgery services at 40% to 50% less.
  • India provides various healthcare services at 20% of the U.S. cost.
  • Various healthcare services can be obtained at 30% less than U.S. prices in Thailand.
  • Singapore offers various medical services in 13 JCI accredited hospitals for only 35% less than U.S. prices.
  • Cosmetic surgery and alternative medicine can be obtained in Malaysia for 25% of the U.S. cost.

The Outlook in Medical Tourism

These medical tourism facts indicate a bright future for this industry. Companies like Hannaford Bros. Co. located in Maine are considering saving up to 70% on medical costs by offering offshore medical treatments for their employees. In a similar manner, insurance companies like BasicPlus Health Insurance at Roswell are collaborating with global healthcare companies to provide overseas options to members with maximum fixed benefits.

Although these medical tourism statistics show favorable figures, patients traveling abroad should research facts about the facilities and services regarding U.S. accreditation. Whether you are receiving surgery in the US or abroad, there are always risks involved. Reviewing a doctor's credentials and talking with previous patients is highly recommended when seeking quality healthcare.