Health Tourism is the growing trend of people traveling to other countries to undergo medical treatments and surgeries and combining it with a pleasant holiday.
 Why should I be aware of this?
Health or medical tourism is a one of the fastest growing industries today and more and more countries are offering facilities and top grade medical services at extremely competitive rates.
In some cases, the overall cost is so reasonable that even after a person includes expenses such as airfares, hotel, insurance, shopping and sight seeing, it still ends up as a cheaper alternative than having medical care in one’s own country.
A case in example is having a heart valve operation in countries like India, Thailand, Singapore etc for around 20,000 USD which in the United States would cost USD100,000.
According to experts who have been following this trend, Health tourism is a potential 2.5 billion $ industry in India alone, which is considered one of the fastest growing in this sector. And Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, South Africa, Jordan, Malaysia, Hungary, Latvia and Estonia all have broken into this highly profitable market and more countries join the list every year.
 How does this affect me?
The primary factor that has lead to the exponential increase of health tourism is the high cost of medical costs in developed countries, which is rising annually. Another reason is the long waiting period under the national health schemes in most of the developed countries because of which patients have to wait for even a year for small procedures also.
Matter has improved with better travel connectivity and the ease and affordability of international travel. Many developing countries are offering highly modernized and improved technology and top notch standard of care.
 All about health tourism
The idea of health tourism is not a new concept. Since the early Egyptian and Roman times, traveling beyond borders for medical health has been a common practice. Many sick patients would travel across the Mediterranean to the Asclepia temples for treatment from various illnesses. People have been visiting spas and mineral hot springs also in search of cures. From the visits to Bath to the pilgrims of Japanese hot springs, history is full of such examples of travelers who would cross boundaries to improve their health.
 Types of healthcare available
Health tourism has come a long way in the last decade or so. There are a number of surgeries and procedures that are popular today and the range is growing rapidly.
From an initial interest in cosmetic or plastic surgery, today patients are opting for many complicated procedures. The common ones are heart by-pass, hip replacements, IVF treatment, kidney dialysis and organ transplantation, cancer treatments, bone marrow transplants and much more. And simple procedures such as eye surgery and dental surgery, are becoming increasingly common.
Besides conventional medical tourism, there is a growing popularity for alternative treatments as well. Whether it is undergoing Ayurveda treatment in India or going to a health spa in Thailand or visiting Mineral hot springs in Turkey, many people are now willing to step out of their countries to seek medical help.
 Favoured health tourism destinations
Among the most popular and fastest growing center for health tourism is India. It has high-grade centers with the latest electronic and medical diagnostic equipment for open-heart surgery, pediatric heart surgery, hip and knee replacement, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, bone marrow transplants and cancer therapy.
For patients from the US, Costa Rica is the chosen destination for inexpensive, high-quality medical care particularly for cosmetic and plastic surgery.
South Africa is another huge destination for all kinds of surgeries. Because the South African rand has such a long-standing low rate on the foreign-exchange market, medical tourism packages there tend to be very reasonable.
Other countries are Argentina, Hungary, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.
One of the last countries to join this list is Dubai which is aiming to be the largest international medical center between Europe and Southeast Asia.
 What can I do?
 Precautions to be taken
Despite all conveniences, it is important to do adequate research and take all necessary precautions before opting to fly out for surgery.
- Be an informed patient.
- Compare services, treatments, costs and credentials of providers and take a decision based on all these factors and not just the cheap prices.
- Do background checks and talk to people who have had the experience of undergoing operations abroad.
- Make sure that the place you choose has a good reputation for pre and post surgical care
- Gather information about medical exhibitions and symposia that focus on health tourism. One can meet actual participants and get a first hand feel of the people and practitioners. Visit Medtourismexpo and Travelextra for more information
- It is advised often to have buffer time on your side when traveling as their can be complications or an extension in post surgical care.
- Check whether the medical institution is accredited by an International organization. Generally medical institution should be accredited by either the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), or the JCI (Joint Commission International). These are the leading organizations which set the standards for hospitals around the world.
 Safety points to remember
- The location and medical practitioner must be properly Accredited which means they have to be certified by a group or agency that measures and rates the regulations, safety guidelines, and facilities.
- Take the necessary steps reduce the likelihood of medical malpractice, negligence, and error. Consult your local doctor or GP before you make the choice.
- Do not make a choice for cosmetic surgery or dentistry based only on pictures or email correspondence
- Don’t choose a country based solely on its tourist merits, without fully checking out the reputation of the surgeons, dentists, clinics or hospitals
- Don’t go through with the surgery if you’re not fully comfortable or happy with what’s happening, or with the surgeon who is going to do the procedure.
- 150,000 Americans now travel abroad every year for affordable, high-quality health care
- Several demographic, economic and lifestyle developments are fueling growth in health tourism.
- Certain destinations, such as Bath and Baden-Baden, have catered to health tourists for centuries.
- Travelling to countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Costa Rica and India for medical and dental treatments cost about 20 to 80% less than at US
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