Medical Tourism: A New Venue of Healthcare

By Goldbach, Alyssa R.; West, Daniel J. | Journal of Global Business Issues, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Medical Tourism: A New Venue of Healthcare


Goldbach, Alyssa R., West, Daniel J., Journal of Global Business Issues


ABSTRACT

Medical tourism is a dynamic subset of global healthcare that incorporates a variety of services, procedures and venues of care. Medical tourism encompasses both the inmigration of patients to the United States and the outsourcing of patients to international locations. Health insurance coverage, the impact on domestic and global markets, and the use of international standards of care will be examined in combination with quality, access and cost parameters. The global nature of medical tourism invites a variety of legal and ethical issues and calls for an organizational body to monitor this new phenomenon. Finally, the future implications of the globalization of health services and systems will be discussed.

Introduction

Medical tourism is the movement of patients through a global network of health services. Medical tourists seek affordable healthcare on a timely basis in a variety of destination nations (Turner, 2007). The expansion of global medical services has sparked immense economic growth in developing nations and has created a new market for advertising access to care. Beyond offering a unique untapped market of services, medical tourism has invited a host of liability, malpractice and ethical concerns. The explosion of offshore "mini-surgical" vacations will surely incite global unification and increased access, quality and affordability of care.

Approximately 750,000 Americans traveled to India, Singapore, Thailand and variety of other locations for medical procedures ranging from dental work to cardiovascular surgery in 2007 (Keckley & Underwood, 2008). These medical tourists are seeking care at an affordable rate, sometimes up to seventy percent cheaper than in the United States, in combination with luxuries of staying in a resort, often in a tropical location (Keckley & Underwood, 2008). Beyond the outsourcing of health services from the United States, medical tourism also encompasses inbound travel to the United States and travel within the country. It is estimated that 417,000 people entered the United States for healthcare in 2007, with most of these procedures occurring at large research institutes, teaching hospitals and other well-known hospitals (Keckley & Underwood, 2008).

Strong economic growth in developing countries has sparked an intense market for medical tourism. Through new resources and the extension of American based hospitals such as John Hopkins Hospital, The Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Medical Center the market for outbound medical tourism is expected to grow to from $60 million in 2006 to $100 billion dollars by 2010 (Keckley & Underwood, 2008). Affiliation with U.S. based hospitals ensures consumer safety and a higher caliber of care; however, liability, malpractice and ethical concerns arise when patients return to the United States to seek post-surgical treatment for procedures performed by different physicians outside of the United States. A variety of Internet based companies, travel agencies, medical travel planners appreciate the implications of this marketing venture. Thus, they have developed plans to aid patients in seeking adequate care and treatment abroad (Keckley & Underwood, 2008).

Medical tourism presents a new generation of healthcare that globally integrates a variety of services, procedures and venues. At a lower cost, with certified physicians, medical tourism is likely to grow as patients seek more affordable, equitable care abroad. The combination of United States facilities with those abroad and the possibilities of health insurance coverage outside of the United States will likely aid in the explosion of medical tourism (Keckley & Underwood, 2008). Integration will hopefully precipitate global unification and cooperation of personnel to achieve optimum patient care. Medical tourism is a rapidly growing phenomenon and a unique sector of the healthcare industry of the future.

Medical Tourism

Wealthy patients have been traveling to the United States and other highly advanced countries to seek premier healthcare for many years. …

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