Medical tourism is a term used to describe the practice of travelling across international borders for the sole purpose of obtaining health care. In the past decade many countries have become popular destinations to these rare kind of tourists. According to statistics, over 400,000 Americans and more than 7 million international citizens travel across borders yearly to take advantages of cheap but effective health care services, surgeries and treatments. The medical tourism industry is estimated to be worth $40 billion according to the latest estimates by PBB (Patients Beyond Borders), an international medical travel publisher.
The main motivation behind medical tourism is usually cost. According to statistics, you can save between 15 and 85 percent when you choose to seek treatment abroad instead of receiving treatment internally. Medical procedures i.e. double hip resurfacing cost approximately $55,000 in the US. In countries like India, the same procedure costs approximately $13,750. This represents a 75% cost saving which is huge considering India has all the necessary medical equipment to conduct most medical procedures successfully. India also has some of the best medical professionals in the world. In fact, most doctors in India and countries featured below are trained in the US.
The above information clearly shows why people prefer to travel across borders to seek medical services in other countries. Some of the most common medical services that trigger medical tourism include; cosmetic surgery, orthopaedics, cardiovascular surgery, cancer diagnosis/treatment and dental care. This is simply because there is a huge disparity in cost when seeking treatment internally. Although America is notorious for its expensive medical services, it is important to note that the US also receives many medical tourists especially those who are interested in cosmetic surgery and highly specialised treatments/procedures. This is because America boasts of having some of the best plastic surgeons in the world.
In this article, we will attempt to rank top medical tourism spots in the world based mainly on the number of tourists a country receives. We will however factor in cost and type of medical/cosmetic procedure among other important factors. It is worth noting that most popular treatment centers and hospitals in the top countries ranked below are JCI accredited meaning they meet international health standards in regards to medical staff, medical equipment & instruments, procedures and administrative infrastructure. Below is a list of top 10 medical tourism spots in the world.
10 Costa Rica (No. of medical tourists per year: 50,000)
According to statistics, approximately 50,000 international tourists visit Costa Rica every year to take advantage of affordable medical services in the country i.e. dental care and medical surgery. This is a huge figure considering it 50,000 medical tourists represent 15% of all international tourists who visit Costa Rica every year. This is precisely why Costa Rica makes it to this list. San Jose and its environs are home to hundreds of board certified doctors, dentists and surgeons who serve majority of the American medical tourists who visit Costa Rica. No wonder Costa Rica is among the top 5 most popular medical tourism destinations for US citizens.
9 Taiwan (No. of medical tourists per year: 90,000)
Taiwan also hosts a substantial number of medical tourists every year which is why the country makes it to this list. According to PBB, approximately 90,000 international tourists visited Taiwan in 2012 to take advantages of the country’s world class medical services/facilities. Taiwan has a total 22 JCI accredited health care facilities offering the best health care services one would wish for. This is compared to the 28 JCI accredited facilities in China. This clearly shows why Taiwan is a top medical tourism spot in Asia. The country has invested heavily to offer the best health care services in the world. The cost of health care is also low (50% lower) than countries such as the US. No wonder medical tourists flock Taiwan every year.
8 Turkey (No. of medical tourists per year: 110,000)
Turkey comes in 8th with approximately 110,000 medical tourists per year. This is according to the latest PBB estimates (2012). Majority of medical tourists who visit Turkey every year are interested in cheap eye surgery and check-ups in Turkey’s numerous JCI accredited hospitals. In fact, Turkey is home to more JCI accredited hospitals than any other country in the world. Cost is also an important boaster to medical tourism in Turkey. Medical tourists from the U.S enjoy cost saving of up to 60% which is impressive when you compare to the cheapest medical tourism spots in the world offering an average cost saving of 75%. Turkey is also home to very many western trained doctors. From the above information, it is obvious why turkey makes it to this list.
7 Brazil (No. of medical tourists per year: 180,000)
Brazil also makes it to this list because it is among the most popular destinations in South America for medical tourists interested in plastic surgery. Approximately 180,000 medical tourists visited Brazil last year to receive various medical services cosmetic surgery topping the list. There are over 4,500 licensed plastic surgeons in Brazil today. Besides expertise, the low cost of plastic surgery is another reason why many medical tourists prefer Brazil over their home countries. Plastic surgery procedures in Brazil cost 60% less when you compare the cost of the same procedures in the U.S. The wide variety of plastic surgery procedures all over Brazil is also an attraction. Medical tourism in Brazil isn’t restricted to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. You can seek treatment in smaller cities like Santos and Porto Alegre. No wonder Brazil is one of the top medical tourism spots in the world.
6 Malaysia (No. of medical tourists per year: Over 250,000)
Malaysia has been receiving an average of 250,000 medical tourists per year in the past few years. This is precisely why Malaysia makes it to this list. The country boasts of having some of the best medical facilities and expertise. The cost is also considerably lower when you compare the costs of healthcare in countries like the U.S. Malaysia can be compared comfortably with India, Thailand and Singapore in terms of medical cost, expertise and facilities. One notable medical tourism service offered in Malaysia is burn treatment. Malaysia is home to some of the best burn treatment centers in the world. Malaysia also has world-class preventative care services at very affordable prices. For instance, tests like; bone density scan, blood work, treadmill and chest X-ray combined cost approximately $350 compared to the $2,500 you would be forced to pay in the U.S. It is clear why Malaysia is in this list.
5 India (No. of medical tourists per year: 400,000)
India makes it to the top 5 spot because of hosting a record 400,000 medical tourists from all over the world in 2012. India is more popular among medial tourists interested in orthopaedic and cardiac procedures. Many patients especially from Africa also visit India every for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Also, special procedures i.e. coronary artery bypass surgeries attract many U.S. patients because the procedure is 90% cheaper in India (Approx. $30,000 in India compared to $300,000 in the U.S.). Although many hospitals in India are not internationally accredited, there are many top private hospitals in India offering world class services. Considering medical tourism is growing at a record pace (30%) every year, India surely deserves to be in the top 5 position in this list.
4 Singapore (No. of medical tourists per year: 610,000)
Singapore is a popular medical tourism spot in the world because it offers one of the best most sophisticated cancer diagnosis and treatment services. According to the latest PBB estimates on medical tourism, Singapore hosted 610,000 medical tourists in 2012. With such a figure, Singapore clearly deserves to be in this list. Apart from offering some of the best cancer treatment services in the world, Singapore is home to some of the best medical facilities in the world. Singapore is home to 22 JCI accredited facilities (14 more than Malaysia). The country continues to invest in health care. It’s most recent and significant investment being a $300 million biotechnology research center. Such developments will definitely cement Singapore’s position in this list for a long time.
3 United States (No. of medical tourists per year: 800,000)
Although the U.S. is considered one of the most expensive countries to seek health care services, a record 800,000 medical tourists flock the country every year to seek treatment on the most complicated health conditions. The U.S. tops the list of countries with the best health care facilities and professionals. This explains why the U.S. receives such a high number of patients in need of highly specialised medical services despite the high cost of health care services. It is also worth noting that the U.S. is home to the best plastic surgeons in the world. Individuals who are keen on receiving the best plastic surgery services regardless of cost definitely contribute to the high number of medical tourists who visit the U.S. every year.
2 Mexico (Over 1 million medical tourists per year)
Mexico makes it to second place because of surpassing the 1,000,000 medical tourist mark per year. According to PBB Mexico received over 1 million medical tourists last year majority of whom were Hispanics from Arizona, California and Texas. The most common services sought after by medical tourists in Mexico include; dental work and weight loss surgery. Mexico receives such a huge number of medical tourists because the country is conveniently located. According to statistics, over 70% of U.S. medical tourists in Mexico come from Arizona, California and Texas. The cost of dental and weigh loss procedures is also cheaper by 15 to 50% in Mexico than in the US i.e. ($1500 for liposuction per area in Mexico compared to $3,000 per area in the U.S.). This clearly shows why Mexico is among the top 3 medical tourism spots in the world.
1 Thailand (No. of medical tourists per year: 1,200,000)
Thailand tops this list because of hosting the most medical tourists according to PBB’s latest estimates. A record 1,200,000 medical tourists visited Thailand in 2012 to receive a wide range of health care services the most notable being cosmetic surgery and rehabilitation treatment services. Thailand is home to some of the best and cheapest rehabs in the world i.e. the Cabin. Many international tourists flock Thailand’s rehabs because of their privacy, exemplary services and low cost between ($1,000 and $7,000 for a complete program). This is very cheap compared to the average $30,000 cost for the best rehab treatment programs in the U.S. This clearly shows why Thailand tops this list.
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