•Medical tourism refers to a vacation that involves traveling across international borders to obtain a broad range of medical services.
•It usually includes leisure, fun, and relaxation activities, as well as wellness and health-care service.
•Patients who seek to reduce their health-care expenditures travel to medical centers in other countries to obtain dental, medical, and surgical services that are less expensive than those at home.
•Medical tourism is now a US$60 billion global business, with an average annual growth rate of 20%.
•Many tourists now combine a holiday with health care, and countries that offer medical care are competing for these tourists in terms of price, quality, and package attractiveness.
•Medical tourism comprises both medicine and tourism, that is, although the core product is medical treatment, attractive hospitality and travel options are also essential.
•Hence, medical tourism requires good coordination of the health-care and tourism industries.
•Medical, or health, tourism is one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors internationally, and many countries are currently planning legally and practically for this market.
•Developing countries, in particular, are increasingly offering state-of-the-art medical facilities and services to foreign customers.
•This international trade in medical services also has huge economic potential for the global economy.
•Investing in the medical industry is a way to increase gross domestic product (GDP), improve services, generate foreign exchange, create a more favorable balance of trade, and boost tourism.
Destinations of Medical Tourism
•Many countries have recognized the business opportunity that medical travel, particularly when combined with tourism.
•In 2005, for example, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand attracted more than 2.5 million medical travelers (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [UNESCAP], 2008);
•Singapore, India, Thailand, Brunei, Cuba, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates are now emerging as major health-care destinations.
•Many other countries, including Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Turkey are also in the process of making themselves attractive health-care destinations, particularly for cosmetic surgery.
•At present, however, Asia remains the main region for medical tourism (Connell, 2006).
•Goodrich and Goodrich (1987) defined health care tourism as “the attempt on the part of a tourist facility or destination to attract tourists by deliberately promoting its health-care services and facilities, in addition to its regular tourist amenities” (p. 217), thus emphasizing the supply side. These health care services may include medical examinations by qualiﬁed doctors and nurses at the resort or hotel, special diets, acupuncture, and special medical treatments for various diseases such as arthritis, and herbal remedies.
•According to Gupta (2004), medical tourism can be defined as the provision of cost-effective medical care to patients in collaboration with the tourism industry. This process is usually facilitated by the private medical sector, whereas both the private and public sectors are involved in the tourism industry. By traveling abroad to have surgery or other medical treatment, medical tourists also take advantage of the opportunity to visit a popular travel destination, thus combining health care with a vacation.
•Hume and DeMicco (2007, p. 76) deﬁned medical tourism as “the process of traveling to another country to receive medical, dental, and surgical care,”
•Heung, Kucukusta, and Song (2010, p. 236) similarly included wellness in their deﬁnition of medical tourism, explaining that medical tourism involves “traveling across international borders to obtain a broad range of medical services.”
•Van Sliepen (as cited in Hall, 1992) placed stronger emphasis on the demand side and viewed health tourism as comprising three elements: staying away from home, health as the primary motive, and occurring in a leisure setting.
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Economic Impact of Medical Tourism
•Medical tourism makes a significant contribution to many of the world’s economies.
•statistics showing the industry worldwide to generate about US$60 billion annually.
•Medical tourism in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and India alone is projected to generate more than US$4.4 billion per year by 2012
•The sector’s proceeds in India are estimated to reach as much as US$2 billion a year by 2012
•Singapore has set itself the target of attracting 1 million foreign patients annually by that year which would push the sector’s GDP contribution to the city state to more than US$1.6 billion, whereas neighboring
•Malaysia expects medical tourism income to reach around US$590 million per year in 5 years’ time
•In Thailand and South Korea, this industry is confidently set to exceed US$4 billion annually by 2012
•Malaysia currently plays host to 100,000 foreign medical tourists each year,
•Singapore and India are also experiencing fast-paced growth as a result of effective marketing strategies.
•Thailand is the clear leader in the Asia Pacific region, welcoming 400,000 foreign patients in 2003
•In 2005, approximately 250,000 and 500,000 foreigners sought medical car in Singapore and India, respectively.
•Thailand treated an astonishing 1 million foreign patients
Interaction with the Hospitality Industry
•A medical tourism product is a medical service with a leisure component.
•Strategically such coordination is often carried out at the governmental level.
•As the popularity and reputation of medical tourism continue to grow, so too will the opportunities for both the hospitality and health-care industries
Negative Aspects of Medical Tourism
•In most cases, national health services and many medical insurance companies are reluctant to compensate citizens/clients for medical procedures performed abroad
•Inadequate follow up care
•Surgical procedures pose a risk of complications
•It may be disadvantageous for the general health systems of those destinations. If the medical tourism industry grows dramatically, then the physical and socio-psychological well-being of the local population may be placed at risk
•The costs of medical procedures in a given destination may be reasonable for individuals from developed countries/regions, they may be prohibitively expensive for the local populace
Push Factors and Pull Factors
The push factors include the situations in the home country that compel patients to seek care abroad, such as:
•High cost of care,
•Lack of=or inadequate health insurance
•Long waiting time and
•Unavailability of the procedures because of technical, legal, political, religious or ethical reasons
The pull factors refer to the reasons that make the situations in foreign countries more appealing to patients such as:
•lower health care costs that can help the patient save as much as 80% for some procedures (Pafford, 2009)
•health care quality,
•ready availability of the procedures
•religious and cultural affinity
•credentials of health care providers
•and the vacation package offered along with clinical care
An increasing number of Bangladeshis are seeking medical treatment abroad
•An increasing number of Bangladeshis are seeking medical treatment abroad. Unlike when medical tourism first reared its head a decade ago, it is no longer limited to the most affluent members of society. Today, many people use their savings to go to neighboring countries in the hope of getting quality healthcare.
•BBC Travel reports, more than 89 per cent of medical tourists travelled to Thailand, Singapore or India in 2010. Fortunately, the top three destinations all happen to be very close to Bangladesh. According to the reports of various media and research articles, more than 300,000 Bangladeshis go abroad for medical treatment every year, mostly to India, Thailand, and Singapore. Indian ministry of tourism data showed that 1.37 million visitors went to India from Bangladesh in 2016, up by 21 per cent from that of 2015. According to an earlier report of professional service firm KPMG India, the highest number of medical tourists in India go from Bangladesh (more than a fifth) because of the ‘lack of quality healthcare infrastructure and unavailability of skilled manpower’ in Bangladesh.
•Hospitals in India, Thailand and Singapore emphasize their highly skilled practitioners and the use of advanced medical technology, procedures, and facilities as the major draw for international patients. Bangladeshi people go abroad for medical purpose due to high cost of surgery, uninsured, long waiting period, non-availability of treatment, lack of medical facilities and proper care, lack of trained doctors and nurses, ethical and regulatory reasons, corruption and inadequate public or private medical facilities in the country.
•However, many Bangladeshi patients travel abroad not just to receive complicated procedures but also for routine pathological tests and to confirm diagnoses. Patients often mention that although some medical technologies are available in Bangladesh, they have lost faith in doctors and their use of these technologies.