Health tourism has always been a popular form of vacation. It is not a new concept, it only seems like a new trend because more countries and destinations are using health care to promote their venues and attract tourists. Also called "medical tourism", "health wellness tourism" "medical offshoring" and "surgical off-shoring", there is a major shift in health care to combine treatments and vacations. In the past, many health tourists traveled to places with well known mineral springs, natural baths and other forms of "healing waters" to aid in the treatment of arthritis and joint pains. Another example was going to expensive week-long spas to rejuvenate and flush the body of harmful toxins by exercising and drinking juices.
But now, as residents of some countries are uninsured, underinsured, and denied benefits, and as other countries advance to offer excellent treatments at reduced costs and shortened waiting periods, it has become more prevalent to see health tourists travel to undergo major operations. Particularly Americans, when faced with the prospect of bankruptcy due to huge medical costs. And, there are other reasons to arrange a medical vacation. Even in countries where health care costs are covered, there are still many who travel elsewhere due to procedures that are not approved in their own countries, or having to wait long periods in line to receive the surgeries or treatments.
Further, the medical community is using health tourism. For the doctors and hospitals who have patients that require essential services and those procedures cannot be performed for any number of reasons, they are recommending patients seek operations elsewhere. Depending on the type of surgery, some of the countries to where they are being referred are Thailand, India, Cost Rica, Cuba, Belgium, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Spain.
Additionally, American insurance companies are using surgical off-shoring to reduce their costs. Some are even offering health care policies that include treatments abroad. Considering many operations are as much as ninety percent cheaper in other countries than in the US, having patients travel to approved hospitals makes good business sense.
And because of such numbers traveling abroad, a new form of business has been created called "medical concierges", "medical tourism facilitators" or "booking agents". Companies now exist to schedule and plan a patient's trip. Generally speaking, the booking agent pre-screens the doctors and hospitals, as well as schedules the flight and may provide advice as to whether or not the patient should travel.
Once patients arrive at the health tourism destination, they are usually pampered with royal treatment. They meet the doctor and staff and generally receive the operation within a few days. After the procedure is completed, they move to a five-star hotel or condo to recover. And all of this luxury is significantly cheaper than in the US. Some companies have quoted the significant price differential of various surgeries. For example, a hip replacement in the US might cost as much as forty-eight thousand ($48,000) as opposed to India where it may be as little as eight thousand five hundred dollars ($8,500).
Lastly, although many people deem some of these countries to be third world nations, they will nonetheless travel because the competent doctors are trained at prestigious medical schools and patients who have returned to the US affirm that the foreign hospitals were very clean and well equipped.
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