Tomorrow I fly to Manila to speak at the Philippine Health and Wellness Tourism Conference. My topic is “From Spa to Medical Spa to Medical Tourism.” Since I have been doing quite a bit of research in preparation for my trip, I thought I would share some of the tidbits I have learned. It will be interesting to see if I feel these observations still hold true after I spend five days learning more about this exciting trend from global experts.
Medical tourism is defined as “travelers going across international borders to obtain health care.” Here are a few things to know and several “twists” I see on the horizon:
Why do people go abroad for health care? Lower costs, quicker access, better quality care, and more advanced technology. In other words, “I can get dental work for half the price I would pay in the U.S.,” “I don’t have to wait six months to have my knee replacement like I do in the UK,” “I like how they take care of me after plastic surgery in Brazil,” or “They are doing a new type of weight-loss procedure in Mexico that I can’t get here at home.”
What are the most popular destinations? More than 50 countries are now catering to the health traveler and you’ll see these countries on the forefront: In Asia: India, Thailand, and Philippines In North/Central America: Mexico and Costa Rica In South America: Brazil and Argentina In Europe: Hungary and Belgium In Africa: Egypt and South Africa
What are the most popular procedures sought? Dental procedures are number one followed by plastic surgery. Other popular areas are cardiovascular surgeries, knee and hip replacements, and transplants.
Who are the most active medical tourists? Americans are number one, followed by people from the United Kingdom and Canada.
Where do spas come in? When people travel for medical procedures they generally need a place to stay before they check into the hospital and after they check out. Spas are the perfect place to help people prepare for surgery as well as recover from it – physically, mentally and spiritually.
What are some potential “twists” on the horizon?
a) Some people are deciding to go to another country for routine medical services and live without traditional health care coverage at home.
b) The term “medical tourism” is changing to “medical traveler.” After all, who feels like sightseeing after surgery? Or even before?
c) Insurance companies are reimbursing procedures taken abroad (because the costs are lower) and may begin encouraging medical travel.
d) Look out for “reverse medical tourism.” Instead of Americans going abroad, more people from other countries are beginning to come to the United States due to a weaker dollar.
Post Health and Wellness Tourism Summit, I will give you an update on my changing observations.
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