When people think of traveling abroad for medical treatment, most people associate medical travel with cosmetic procedures and lower costs. While cosmetic surgery abroad, especially in countries such as Mexico continue to be popular with health tourists, in recent years the reasons for people seeking treatment abroad have expanded. According to a 2009 research, 40% of patients travel abroad to receive advanced treatments unavailable in their home countries, 32% believe the medical care treatment is better abroad in terms of medical care and attention; 15% travel to reduce the waiting time for surgeries and procedures and only 9% of patients traveling abroad are traveling for lower costs of treatment.
More than 26 countries actively engage in medical tourism and it is estimated that the medical tourism industry will be worth $100 billion USD by 2012. So why and where do patients travel for medical care - especially patients traveling from advanced countries such as the United States and the UK?
Currently much of the medical research underway is being carried out by research teams and medical groups outside the US and the UK. Patients who are interested in advanced spinal surgery for example may travel to Spain; while infertility clinics in Mexico offer some of the most advanced IVF treatments available and the highly acclaimed light-adjustable lenses set to revolutionise cataract surgery only recently became available in the UK after being trialled in Germany.
If advances in medical care are available in the patients home countries, the costs of new treatments often prove prohibitive - medical care abroad can provide more advanced or 'new' treatment for the same cost as standard treatment at home. IVF with gender selection is one such example; the total cost of an IVF cycle with pre-implantation gender selection can cost in excess of $20,000USD in America; the same IVF with gender selection cycle in Columbia is averagely $10,000USD -the cost of a basic IVF cycle in the US.
For UK and Canadian patients, the motivating reason for treatment abroad is to reduce the waiting time for surgeries available on the national healthcare systems. Many patients in these countries rely on the government funded healthcare systems but often do not want to delay treatment and cannot afford private care at home. Infertility treatment is a good example. Women's fertility decreases with age - research has proven that after the age of 35 every month counts when trying to conceive. Waiting lists for IVF on the NHS can be up to 12 months long. Women who wait this long risk further fertility problems. Traveling to countries such as Turkey makes private IVF an affordable option and prevents delayed-treatment related problems.
The 32% of medical tourism patients who believe they can receive better care abroad, travel for the one-to-one care they can receive. Most of the hospitals and clinics that offer treatment to international patients have on-site patient co-ordinators to provide one-to-one support for patients during treatment or work alongside medical facilitator companies that help patients through every step of treatment from locating a doctor to booking the appointment and answer questions about the treatment process itself.
Medical tourism offers patients more choices about their healthcare options.
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