Medical Tourism Introduction
People have traveled for cures in distant lands for millennia, so medical tourism is an ancient phenomenon (HealthTourism.com). However, the twenty-first century version represents a far more significant trend because it is globalizing health care in general, repeating the globalization process that has affected countless industries and affected an increasing portion of populations around the world. Most important, the globalization of health care is different because “key forces” make health care abroad available to a large portion of “normal” people, not only small numbers of wealthy. Therefore, it encompasses a rapidly growing collection of medical and health-related procedures. Medical tourism is a key trend that is leading to the globalization of health care.
The globalization of health care affects the lives of numerous “participants” in health care. First, it profoundly affects patients because they can access care that is not available in their home countries, so it can have a life-changing impact on families. It is creating new industries and careers such as medical tourism facilitators. In the U.S., there is no national health system, so most people have private insurance provided by their employers as an employment benefit. Medical tourism therefore affects U.S. employers and insurance companies, some of whom are in the process of evolving their health plans. Finally, medical tourism affects providers in high cost “home” countries because it introduces new competitors, especially for certain types of procedures. In low cost provider countries, medical tourism is enabling vast new industries, often with active participation of governments. When an industry globalizes, it becomes transformed, which affects its participants in different ways.
At a fundamental level, “medical tourism” is defined by patients seeking the care of providers far away, but there are numerous terms that seek to describe the phenomenon, and their nuances are worth noting. For convenience, this study will usually refer to both with the term “medical tourism.” “Medical travel” is a term that is more related to serious health issues; these patients may do some sightseeing, but their trip is much more about improving their health significantly. It usually does not refer to elective procedures and is sometimes termed “health travel.” “Medical tourism” or “health tourism” usually denotes a patient traveling to a foreign country to seek elective medical care, which is bundled with vacation or leisure activities. Their trip is often about beautification and enjoyment.
In addition, according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Medical Tourism is defined into three categories: “Outbound” refers to U.S. patients voyaging to other countries for medical procedures. “Inbound” means foreign patients’ voyaging to the U.S. for medical care. “Intrabound” refers to U.S. patients traveling to other states within the U.S. for medical care.