In the early beginnings of medical tourism thousands of years ago, Greek pilgrims were known to travel from the eastern Mediterranean to as far as the Saronic Gulf to obtain healing from the healing god, Asklepios, and search for natural remedies to some of the ailments they were plagued with at the time.
As medical care grew and knowledge of the human body and health widened, so did the availability of treatment methods for the plethora of disease conditions. Now, diseases which were once impossible to treat can be managed with some of the most complex medical procedures.
But as medical treatments became more complex and efficient, health users and payers have had to face the challenge of rising costs and inaccessibility. As a result, patients now choose to travel miles away from home to bypass these barriers and access these treatments. Here are some of the medical procedures that are driving outbound medical travel:
Dental care is one of the biggest driver of outbound travel. The biggest reasons for this are the raging costs of dental care in the country and the poor access to dental insurance in the country. With cost savings as much as 80%, patients can get root canals treatments, veneers, and dental implants done in Mexico.
Mexico has become a choice destination for patients seeking a range of dental procedures, with huge cost savings and access to quality treatments. Many of the dental practitioners in Mexico have obtained their qualifications and training in the U.S and have collaborations with some dental clinics within the U.S.
Other countries that attract health payers and buyers seeking dental care, include Italy, which has the highest number of dentists per capita, Poland, Germany, and Sweden.
Cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular worldwide, with more people seeking aesthetic procedures to enhance their appearance and boost self-confidence. Cost plays a big role in driving medical travel to certain destinations for cosmetic treatments; for example, nose jobs could be done for more than half the U.S. price in Bogota, Columbia compared to the United States. The same procedure can be done at a much more affordable rate in Thailand with good quality results.
Patients can get huge cost savings for their face lifts, liposuction, or breast implants done by U.S-trained cosmetic surgeons across the world. Other destinations that have gained recognition as top places for cosmetic surgery include South Korea, India, Spain, and Turkey.
Fertility tourists or intending parents now have a wide range of solutions to achieve conception thanks to development of assisted reproductive techniques and technologies. The rapid growth of technology in this field has led to a wide range of cutting-edge reproductive procedures, such as preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), cytoplasmic transfer, cryopreservation, and embryoscopy.
Destinations such as Spain, Israel, and Czech Republic have become global leaders in fertility treatment. Israel, particularly, is known for its pioneering research and advanced reproductive technologies. Spain is also a leading destination for a wide range of fertility services, including egg donation and surrogacy, and is becoming a choice destination for intending parents seeking surrogacy services.
Other destinations renowned for world class fertility services include Australia, Denmark, Greece, and South Africa.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment have expanded in the last decade, with cutting edge treatments, such as precision therapy, genomics, brachytherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy, radiofrequency ablation, as well as complex surgical procedures for cancer treatment.
Although the United States remains at the forefront of cancer treatment, boasting highly trained oncology specialists and cancer treatment centers, the financial burden of cancer treatment in many developed countries remain steep.
Cancer treatment has surged across the world, with world-class centers established around the world. Destinations that have gained recognition in oncology include Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.
Wait times for elective orthopedic procedures in many countries could be as long as two years. Patients waiting for knee replacement surgeries or spinal fusion often wait in pain for years to get a slot for the procedure. To bypass this barrier, patients can travel to destinations renowned for complex orthopedic surgeries, including South Korea, Germany, India, and Turkey.
Germany is renowned for its world-class healthcare system and cutting-edge medical technology, making it an ideal destination for orthopedic surgery. South Africa also leverages its unique position as a technology powerhouse to advance orthopedic surgery, offering even the most complex procedures, such as complex joint reconstruction.
Long wait times for transplant procedures, huge costs of the procedure, and inaccessibility are driving thousands of patients beyond borders for transplant surgeries. In the UK, for example, the average wait time for a deceased donor kidney transplant is 2-3 years and could be as long as 5 years in other countries.
A few destinations have distinguished themselves as leaders in transplant surgery, pioneering cutting-edge procedures and transplant treatments. The United States is a major player in the field with heavy research and advancements in organ transplant, including pancreas and heart transplant.
Other top destinations for transplant procedures are India, Turkey, Spain, and South Korea.
Obesity has become a global epidemic, affecting millions of people worldwide. For many individuals struggling with weight loss, bariatric surgery is a life-changing solution. This has led to a surge in medical tourism, as patients seek out top-quality, affordable, and safe treatment options beyond their borders.
More destinations around the world boast world-class bariatric centers that offer quality services provided by highly trained surgeons and clinicians. Common destinations such as the United States, Turkey and South Korea provide a wide range of cutting-edge procedures, including sleeve gastrectomy, intra-gastric balloon, gastric bypass and bilopancreatic diversion with exceptional results.
Travel for bariatric surgery also comes with huge cost savings as well as other tourism perks.
Eye care has advanced in recent years, with state-of-the-art procedures and minimally invasive surgeries to treat complex eye conditions. Many eye centers around the world now offer complex refractive surgeries, such as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery, which is done to improve visual acuity.
Glaucoma surgery as well as retinal and cataract surgeries have also become more advanced in recent years, with many destinations also boasting topline plastic and reconstructive eye surgeries.
Top destinations that offer complex eye surgery include India, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom. Some of these destinations also offer affordable rates for such complex procedures, reaching 80% cost savings compared to rates in many much more developed countries.
Cardiac surgery is a critical component of medical tourism, as patients around the world search for high-quality, affordable care for their heart health needs. Pioneering advancements and innovations in cardiac surgery is the United States, with other destinations such as Germany, India, and South Korea also renowned for world-class and affordable heart surgery care.
These destinations have recorded breakthroughs in minimally invasive cardiac procedures, including transcatheter cardiac valve replacements and laser angioplasty.
Due to the long wait times for accessing cardiac care in many destinations and the huge cost of many cardiac procedures, medical tourists from around the world are leveraging the huge opportunities available abroad for their heart care.
Neurosurgical procedures include those for brain and spinal cord conditions, such as tumors, congenital malformations, and aneurysms. These medical treatments are some of the most expensive medical procedures and also come with great risk to life and functionality. Therefore, accessing the best centers with the most skilled experts for this is a major challenge for health tourists.
Destinations such as the United States, India, and Turkey rank high as some of the best destinations for receiving neurosurgical care. These destinations have centers with strong collaborations with neurosurgery centers of excellence around the world and with access to the best training and resources available.
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For those seeking medical care abroad, we highly recommend hospitals and clinics who have been accredited by Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA). With a strong emphasis on exceptional patient experience, GHA accredited facilities are attuned to your cultural, linguistic, and individual needs, ensuring you feel understood and cared for. They adhere to the highest standards, putting patient safety and satisfaction at the forefront. Explore the world's top GHA-accredited facilities here. Trust us, your health journey deserves the best.