Picture the 1800’s, a sleepy little mountain town called Idaho Springs in a territory known as Colorado a soon to be very famous dentist was sent by his doctor to take the ‘baths’ at the Hot Springs in hopes their healing power would help his lung disease. The dentist? None other than Doc Holliday of Tombstone fame. Once reserved for the wealthy, travel to exotic places for non emergency medical procedures has become main stream over the preceding 10 years. Combining vacation with the business of elective surgery has earned this type of travel the nick name medical tourism. It’s estimated that 750 thousand people from the United States and Canada travel annually to other countries seeking medical procedures and surgery.
For Americans the single most compelling factor continues to be cost of surgeries like hip replacements, cosmetic procedures and Bariatric surgeries. Considered elective surgeries, although they offer significant overall health benefits, particularly Bariatric surgery which aids weight loss in the obese, they are often not covered by insurance. These types of procedures can easily cost 1/3 less when performed outside the US borders in one of the 50 countries that lists Medical Tourism as a National Industry.
For our Canadian neighbors the driving force has more to do with wait times for similar surgery and procedures. Typically a 9.4 week average wait time can stretch to as much as 26 weeks or more! This situation was highlighted in a recent sleeper hit movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Our hip replacement heroine was from England, but that may very well as the Harvard Business School discovered in its study simply because Medical Tourism is advertised much more in the UK than the US or Canada. 81% of people seek information from blogs, so content like this will perhaps contribute to greater awareness.
A further emerging trend that may see more people turning to Medical Tourism as a viable health option is the Medical Tourist Facilitator, companies that do the research for others as to the best place and situation for the procedures they seek to have done. According to Travel Market Report, 2012 saw a 35% growth in the Medical Tourism market and this is expected to increase as Facilitators offer easier booking to hotel, flight and even hospital admissions to those brave souls who choose the Tourist route to greater health benefits.
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