Medical tourism is also defined as the travel of patients from their home country to different destinations for the purpose of medical treatment. These services could be sophisticated treatments such as cardiac surgery, orthopedics, neurosurgery, dental care or elective treatments such as cosmetic surgeries or even routine health check-ups. The medical tourism industry is emerging due to rise in healthcare expenditure in developed countries coupled with the availability of cost effective treatments in developing countries. The high cost of treatment in developed countries is seen as a prime reason for the migration of patients to other destinations. In the United States, approximately 50 million people are uninsured and approximately 139 million Americans are without dental insurance. It was estimated that approximately 1.6 million Americans travelled to other destinations in 2012 for seeking medical services. Cost of treatment in developing countries is in a range of 20% to 30% less to the cost in the United States. Therefore, a patient can save up to 30% to 85% on the medical services coupled with sophisticated travel expenditure. The global medical tourism market was valued at USD 10.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.9 % from 2013 to 2019 to reach an estimated value of USD 32.5 billion in 2019.
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Driving factors such as rise in geriatric population, increasing adoption of sophisticated technology and favorable exchange rate have boosted the growth of this market. According to current estimations, number of Americans aged 65 years or above is expected to double by 2050. Therefore, rise in geriatric population would propel the demand for advanced and affordable care. Additionally, economic crisis in the developed countries has led to the reduction in healthcare expenditure. Therefore, rising healthcare expenditure is propelling insurers, health insurance agents and employers to seek medical services abroad. Further, long waiting time in countries such as Canada, U.K. and France remains one of the major factors that compel the patients to move to other destinations. Similarly, favorable exchange rates and rise in demand of the cosmetic surgeries is accelerating the growth of this market.
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Medical tourism is seen as direct result of globalization of healthcare services. Witnessing the immense growth potential of this industry, a considerable rise in the number of countries seeking to become major exporters for medical services is observed. With low cost of treatment and high quality of infrastructure, the Asian region has become a prominent player in the market over the past few years. It is estimated that in 2012 the region attracted approximately 2 billion foreign patients generating revenue of over USD 6.4 billion. Growth in this region is primarily seen due to the presence of well-established medical tourist destinations such as Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea. In Asia, Thailand is the most popular destination among the Western European medical tourists for cosmetic surgeries. In 2012, Thailand received approximately 2.5 million foreign patients that is approximately 45% share of the total foreign tourist arrival in the Asian region. Singapore and India specialize in complex procedures with India attracting large number of patients owing to its specialization in cardiac surgeries. Malaysian region is rapidly gaining momentum and is expected to lead the medical tourism market in future. Growth in this region is witnessed due to the presence of highly skilled professionals and modern healthcare infrastructure. Similarly, robust growth in revenue and medical tourist arrival is driven by factors such as cost-effective treatment and government support. In 2012, the country treated approximately 671,000 patients and expects to treat approximately 2 million patients by 2019.
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Geographic proximity and cultural similarities are also driving growth of this industry. Brazil and Mexico primarily witness patients from the U.S due to geographic proximity. Moreover, cost-effective treatments coupled with rise in baby boomer population are further propelling growth of this market. In addition, growth in Turkey is seen due to increase in demand for cosmetic surgeries.
However, medical tourism industry is still maturing and requires a lot of coordination among the government, insurers and healthcare providers. Currently, medical tourism industry is mainly captured by the private sector. Further, greater involvement of government agencies could improve the competitive advantage of one country over other countries. Major healthcare providers in this industry include Apollo Enterprise Ltd, Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok Medical Center, Raffles Medical Group, Prince Court Medical Center and others.
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