Medical Tourism: An Industry of Necessity

Sometime back, there was a story of a Canadian patient who fractured his left hip when he accidentally slipped on a slippery bathroom floor some 3 months ago in Toronto, Canada. His orthopedic surgeon instructed him to stay in bed until the hip replacement surgery is done. Being a holder of a premium health maintenance organization (HMO) card, he was assured to be placed in a priority list for surgery. With the passage of time, his pain continued to increase. My patient started to complain to his surgeon about the delay in his surgery. It was then that he learned that in Canada, the waiting list for Hip replacement surgery is considerably long. HMO’s have professed that the average waiting time till surgery in Canada is 26 months.  After enduring 11 week of agonizing hip pain he finally decided to have his surgery in Dubai instead. His Dubai-based surgeon at a Dubai cosmetic surgery clinic assured him that he can start on him within 2 days of arrival, and he will only be paying one-fourth the cost of surgery in Canada even with insurance participation.

This particular case shows that a first world nation flew in to a different country to have his hip surgery done. Not only that he has cut his waiting time from 26 weeks to 26 hours, he has also markedly dropped his medical cost by a 75% both in surgery and post-operative care. The patient movement from a highly developed country to other areas of the world for medical attention and usually to find medical treatment at a lower cost defines the term Medical Tourism.

A bit of history

Medical tourism goes back to decades ago in Ancient Greece. Pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean would flock to this sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios in Epidauria by the Saronic Gulf. Epidauria is considered the first travel destination for medical tourism in the ancient world. In the early eighteenth century England, patients would come to spa towns for the healing wonders of the natural mineral water of the natural spa. They believed that the steam from the spa relieves them from ailments like gout, liver disorders and bronchitis.

The most common medical conditions that sought by travelers in medical tourism are those in surgeries, which includes cardiac, reconstructive, joint replacement (hip and knee) and dental surgery. The booking process starts with a patient contacting a medical tourism service provider of the receiving country where a detailed medical history / medical summary is taken as well as the laboratory results relevant to the operation. The service provider matches the patient to an available and qualified surgeon, reserves the hospital and the operating room, and makes necessary arrangements for the lodging of the patient during the post-operative care period. Visit website for more information.

7 months ago