The number of patients traveling to other countries to receive medical treatment is increasing. A recent study ('Global Medical Tourism Market Size and Forecast, 2018-2025') has estimated that the global medical tourism industry will continue to grow at a CAGR of 10% until 2025.
There are various reasons why medical tourism is on the rise. The high cost of medical treatment in developed countries, the availability of skilled labor in developed countries, the high rate of chronic illness, and more people opting for cosmetic surgery, are all factors which are driving the trend.
Hospitals and clinics in South America, the Middle East, and Asia are able to offer high-quality treatment at affordable prices. Visitors are also able to enjoy a holiday in the destination country at the same time.
The global medical tourism market was valued at over USD 15 billion in 2017, around 50% greater than in 2016. More governments are expected to introduce medical eVisas to facilitate health tourism in their respective countries.
Asia-Pacific has the highest share of the market (with around 40% )and it is set to grow further due to its economic development. The increase in accessibility and availability of healthcare facilities as well as the investment in medical research have helped to boost the industry.
The rise of obesity and cosmetic surgery
Some studies claim that the increase in obesity, as well as the growing obsession with having the perfect body, have become important factors for the rise in medical tourism. Cosmetic surgery has become a popular solution for obesity and procedures such as contouring, liposuction, and facial rejuvenation have become standard treatments for perfectly healthy individuals who want to improve their appearance.
Recent improvements in the field of cosmetic surgery have made it a more attractive proposition. Non-invasive procedures have reduced the risk of complications during surgery, the size of incisions, the probability of scarring, and have quickened recovery periods.
However, medical tourism is not the answer to all health problems. Major operations often require follow-ups over long periods of time, sometimes up to six months. Medical tourists leave as soon as they are fit enough to travel which means follow-ups are restricted to online appointments.
Online consulting is not always as effective as the doctor is more limited. There are also some ethical concerns and trust issues regarding medical tourism which will restrict the market's growth.
One concern is that patients may be more prone to infections in foreign countries. Some people find it unethical that patients from developed countries are able to gain access to healthcare which is unavailable to the vast majority of local people.