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Medical Tourism Statistics and Facts |

An Essential Fact Sheet and Guide on Medical Tourism Statistics

In 2015, it was estimated that medical tourism generated between U.S. $60 and U.S.$70 billion. It was predicted at the time that health tourism would generate at least twice these revenues by 2020. The market in 2019 however is changing rapidly as new laws come into place and the population in general becomes more accustomed to the idea of medical tourism.

As a result there are many unknowns to calculate or assume when looking at the medical tourism market. What we do know is that a significant majority of travelers will not declare medical interventions as their reason for travel. Different countries add up the numbers differently. Some include health and wellness tourists in this bracket, or even returning expatriates with a right to treatment in their home country.

The industry is now much more closely studied, as interest has grown with public popularity, giving a more accurate outlook of upcoming trends. Zion Market Research published a new report titled “Medical Tourism Market by Treatment Type: Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2017 - 2024” which adjusted revenue forecasts over the next 5 years. They have found that the market “is expected to generate revenue of around USD 28.0 billion by the end of 2024, growing at a CAGR of around 8.8% between 2018 and 2024.” By looking at this study, which does predict strong growth, you would still get the impression that overall there is less than 10 billion in trade each year as a result of medical tourism.

Medical Tourism: The Full Picture

This sector has long been notorious to analyse. Recent advancements in data gathering and communication have revealed the full extent of recent growth. If we include not only medical treatments carried out by differing service providers but dental and cosmetic procedures as well, the numbers paint a very different picture. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine revealed that the number of medical tourists to all countries in 2017 was estimated at 14-16 million. Now that we know this, we simply have to find their average spend to know the true value of the industry. Foreign patients can actually spend up to $6,000 on each trip, bringing the total amount of money generated up to $72 billion.

This is no small amount of money and countries in Asia and the Middle East are moving to capitalise on a global business that is worth around 36.9 billion in 2018! These countries are able provide the same service at the same quality and safety level due to lower staff pay levels, medical indemnity costs and more. The end price therefore seems greatly reduced to the patient, drawing them from their home country for treatment. This is so lucrative that even American hospitals, such as Harvard, John Hopkins and more have begun founding medical centres and clinics outside of the U.S.

Over the last few years, medical tourism has gained popularity among highly industrialized countries such as the United States. The number of medical tourists from the United has increased from about 750,000 in 2007, to over 1.4 million a decade later in 2017

While exact statistics for medical tourism are difficult to confirm, these estimations indicate a strong potential for medical tourism in the future.

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 February 2018 report by PWC regarding medical tourism indicated otherwise. The average spending per visit now rests at $3,000 - $10,000 per tourist. Interestingly the majority of tourists actually came from Indonesia, hitting 600,000 for the year, with the USA in second place with 500,000 going abroad. The report predicted that the medical tourism market will be at a value of 125 billion by 2021 whilst the wellness market would reach a staggering 808 billion.

A lack of health insurance is the most common factor for medical travel, but the report recognised a patient need for accessibility, experience focused offerings and an increasing desire for high quality care.

  • Approximately 2.5 million foreign patients traveled to hospitals in Thailand in 2013. In Bangkok's prestigious Bumrungrad International Hospital, over 520,000 international patients received treatment at the hospital.
  • Singapore has been a growing medical tourism center in South East Asia with 850,000 medical tourists arriving in 2012. In January 2019 however, a report was released by RHB Research, the article quotes analyst Juliana Cai saying "As healthcare costs in neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Thailand are much lower, they have been attracting medical tourists from the region – thereby eating into Singapore's market share."
  • Latin America, particularly Costa Rica and Panama, are fast becoming tourist spots for medical travelers with approximately 40,000 foreign patients seeking healthcare in Costa Rica in 2011.
  • 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. According to Politico however, the recent events with Donald Trump and the wall could damage the flow of medical tourism across the border.
  • After visitors number more than doubling in the last 5 years, Malaysia is also becoming a famous destination with 770,134 medical travelers in 2013. In 2016 Malaysia received numerous awards and global recognition from International Medical Travel Journal. Among the awards won by The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) were ‘Health & Medical Tourism: Destination of the Year’, International Hospital of the Year, ‘International Cosmetic Surgery Clinic of the Year, ‘International Dental Clinic of the Year’, ‘International Fertility of the Year’, and ‘Best Marketing Initiative of the Year’.
  • India has become a medical tourism hot spot, with 166,000 international patients in 2012 coming to the country due to the selection of highly skilled doctors and improved medical infrastructure. In 2016 the numbers kept rising, with over 170,000 medical visas awarded. This represents only a fraction of the total medical tourists entering the country.
  • South Korea has now entered the top ten countries in the world in terms of tourist volume. At the last available count in 2016, 390,000 people travelled to Korea as a medical tourist compared to the overall patient volume of 14 million.
  • The UK has recently announced the need for improved quality standards for cross border care. There seems to be room for more private inbound medical tourism but there needs to be a change in the cap on numbers allowed currently.
  • In Spain, the demand for medical tourism has skyrocketed, especially in the town of Marbella. Over 330 million euros a year are generated in the province. The Quirón business group is the biggest medical supplier in Spain and it treats up to 20,000 foreign patients a year, with most of the patients coming from the UK, Netherlands and Finland.
  • As fertility decreases in the MENA region the demand for IVF and related services grows. In North Africa and the Middle East there is a $1 billion market, serviced by Turkey but also increasingly by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi.

What Are The Most Frequently Treated Conditions in Medical Tourists?

While cost is the main driver for medical tourism, in America gaps in or a complete lack of health insurance cause people to seek medical attention elsewhere. Procedures surrounding cosmetics, dentistry, fertility or even weight loss are commonly not viewed upon kindly by insurance companies. The following list of the top American foreign medical procedures will not surprise you as it is populated by these very procedures that have restricted access.

  • Dentistry
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Weight loss
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Dermatology
  • Liver & kidney transplants
  • Spinal surgery

Established and emerging medical tourism markets

Americans prefer Mexico, Thailand, Costa Rica, Philippines 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 quality of healthcare, and a significant number of U.S accredited hospitals and physicians.

As people around the world become more familiar with each other, new travel routes open up. The fall of the USSR has brought a swathe of patients in to Poland from the UK and Hungary receives most of its influx from Western Europe. Old ties still prevail however, the UK continues to have close ties with both Spain, Malta and Cyprus for example. While distance to a destination is not the deciding factor in the majority of cases it does protect against volatilities in the market.

Familiarity and cultural similarity is emphasized to try and bring back diaspora. For example Korean health care services to those settled or second generation within the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The colonial past between the UK and India has produced a strong medical skills and treatment exchange between the two countries.

In the Middle East the Dubai HealthCare Committee (DHCC) is attempting to keep medical tourism within the Middle East instead of losing them to cheaper Asian countries. As a result, much like Japan they are focusing on quality and performance rather than price.

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. 

The following are some of potential savings and services in USD ($) that can be acquired in various medical tourism destinations using the most recent data:
Angiography2500 – 300030006001000
Hip replacement4300043000-46000900012000
Knee replacement4000036000-380006000-900012000
Open Heart(CABG)1000004300075009600
Face lift200002100031006250
Heart valve Replacement160000150000900012500
Breast Reduction100001100022008000
Bone Marrow Transplant2500002150006000080000-100000
Liver Transplant2500002150006000080000-100000
Kidney Transplant2500002150006000080000-100000
Dental Implants2500002150006000080000-100000

To give an average overview of the savings made for all procedures we have compiled this list from Patients Beyond Borders in the order of least to highest savings. The percentages are the most recent available and calculated in comparison to the average U.S. cost.

Brazil: 20-30%
Singapore: 25-40%
South Korea: 30-45%
Spain 30 - 70%
Taiwan: 40-55%
Mexico: 40-65%
Costa Rica: 45-65%
Turkey: 50-65%
Thailand: 50-75%
Malaysia: 65-80%
India: 65-90%

Travel Insurance

As the world of medical tourism grows, so does the appetite for specialist travel insurance. This need stems from the fact that standard travel insurance usually penalizes you for pre-existing conditions and in any case cover for traditional delays and loss of baggage would be void. There now exists insurance products that will cover you in the case of travelling for surgery, and further products that seek to protect you from the cost of complications and repeat operations. If you are considering travel for medical treatment reasons then make sure you seek this type of insurance and double check your cover need with the provider.

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.

The Rise of International Accreditation

As both patients, practitioners and service providers look towards the future a common aim is that of a seamless and reliable experience. Since 1999 the Joint Commission, which is a U.S. governmental body has been expanding overseas. The original purpose of the commission is to ensure the same standards of quality and care are being met across the States. Now its international body, the Joint Commission International (JCI) is seeking out hospitals and clinics which seek to prove their own standard outside of the U.S.

This is beneficial for both parties. The expectation of good care abroad comparable to that of domestic medicine is a main concern of medical tourists. With an international standard being followed patients now have less to worry about, including required follow up treatment at home. Clinicians and clinics will have patient data that can be transferred and discussed more easily, and attract lucrative overseas client once the seal of approval has been given by the JCI.

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