The conventional definition of medical tourism was restricted as alternative to pharmaceutical and surgical treatments and included several eastern medicine therapies such as Unani, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga and other forms of traditional Indian medicine to treat, control and cure lifestyle diseases. Medical tourism process particularly involved patients from the western hemisphere travelling abroad to Asian countries in search of these traditional healing techniques. However during the last two decades, the concept has been absorbed by modern medicine wherein patients fly overseas to countries where surgical procedures and treatments are highly affordable. Due to the challenging healthcare and reimbursement scenario in countries such as United States, U.K., France, Germany and other developed countries, several key disease treatments and their reimbursement are in a state of risk. Most developing countries do not have a strong health insurance background as well. In countries such as China, India, Singapore, Turkey, Brazil, Cyprus and Thailand there could be well over 40%-70% people without insurance and pay their medical bills straight through transfer.
Key trends that define the market potential in developing countries is the fact that almost all types of medical devices, implants and pharmaceuticals are 10 times cheaper due to intense competition among local and international players. The governments and regulatory system is another challenge for manufacturers since it is currently designed so that middle income and low income class can avail crucial medical facilities. This brings down the cost of medical equipment, drugs and devices significantly. The evaluation of this market is particularly challenging due to the pivotal role played by developing countries instead of the conventional leaders that are present in the western hemisphere. Under the current definition, anyone who travels abroad for the purpose of receiving medical care or treatment can be considered as a medical tourist. An estimated 3 million people travel abroad from North America and Europe to the Asian continent for various types of medical treatment.
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Other popular medical specialties for tourism include dentistry, cardiovascular (angioplasty, transplants and stenting), orthopaedics (joint implants, reconstructive, spine and sports medicine), fertility and reproductive among others. Screening and diagnostics are considered to be a major source of revenue through medical tourism as well. Monetary savings through medical tourism in countries such as India, Costa Rica, Thailand and Malaysia can be as high as 70% as compared to costs incurred in developed countries such as United States and Europe.
Medical tourism is not without its challenges as in 2010 and 2014 study concluded by CDC suggested a high risk of acquiring diseases in developing countries due to low sanitation in certain areas of the world. Illegal organ transplants and ?donations? are also considered as a part of this scenario, wherein there are several life risks for both donor and recipient. Other challenges include the quality of medical equipment used in the procedures that can cause more harm than cure. More recently, agencies in United States have begun accrediting clinics and hospitals in the east as part of acceptance that medical tourism is here to stay for now and this has increased the safety margin considerably. The Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) and The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAASF) have launched international initiatives that address ambulatory care.
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Asia-Pacific leads by a long way in this market with a share of more than 65% globally. Latin America and Middle-East region are the other marginal leaders, primarily led by countries such as Brazil and Turkey. In terms of players, the market is highly fragmented and analysing medical tourism revenues of large groups of hospitals such as Apollo in India, Parkway Pantai and KPJ Healthcare in South-East Asia and AMIL in Brazil would clearly establish the scenario. This report is intended for hospitals and clinics that wish to capitalize on this growing market. The report is also planned for potential collaborators and partners from medical equipment manufacturers to other western healthcare companies that wish to understand the nature and trends of this dynamic market. The intended readers also include other analysts looking for a different perspective on this market along with venture capitalists and investors.
NOTE: This report is currently under research and will be made available to clients on request.