With medical tourism still in its early stages, gaining reliable data is challenging. Our research and editorial team works hard to compile the most accurate, current information on international medical travel, global healthcare, and the international patient experience.
Below, we have compiled brief answers to some of the queries we receive most often. Contact us with specific queries—we’re happy to work with you to provide the best source information, third-party references, patient case studies, industry contacts, and the latest research data.
What are the top destinations?
Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United States
Why these destinations?
The making of a world-class healthcare destination is complex. We consider a variety of factors, including:
- Government and private sector investment in healthcare infrastructure
- Demonstrable commitment to international accreditation, quality assurance, and transparency of outcomes
- International patient flow
- Potential for cost savings on medical procedures
- Political transparency and social stability
- Excellent tourism infrastructure
- Sustained reputation for clinical excellence
- History of healthcare innovation and achievement
- Successful adoption of best practices and state-of-the-art medical technology
- Availability of internationally-trained, experienced medical staff
What are the top specialties for medical travelers?
- Cosmetic surgery
- Dentistry (general, restorative, cosmetic)
- Cardiovascular (angioplasty, CABG, transplants)
- Orthopedics (joint and spine; sports medicine)
- Cancer (often high-acuity or last resort)
- Reproductive (fertility, IVF, women’s health)
- Weight loss (LAP-BAND, gastric bypass)
- Scans, tests, health screenings and second opinions.
How big is the market?
Finding the answer to this question can be challenging, as estimates and forecasts vary widely among world’s the top research firms. These disparities arise from inconsistencies in defining medical travel and a lack of verifiable data at the country level.
Patients Beyond Borders‘ editors define a medical traveler as anyone who travels across international borders for the purpose of receiving medical care. We do not count in-country expatriates, tourists in need of emergency medical care, companions accompanying medical travelers, or multiple patient episodes that occur over the course of one medical visit.
With these variables in mind, we believe the market size is USD 45.5-72 billion, based on approximately 14 million cross-border patients worldwide spending an average of USD 3,800-6,000 per visit, including medically-related costs, cross-border and local transport, inpatient stay and accommodations. We estimate some 1,400,000 Americans will travel outside the US for medical care this year (2016).
Is the market growing?
Yes. The world population is aging and becoming more affluent at rates that surpass the availability of quality healthcare resources. In addition, out-of-pocket medical costs of critical and elective procedures continue to rise, while nations offering universal care are faced with ever-increasing resource burdens. These drivers are forcing patients to pursue cross-border healthcare options either to save money or to avoid long waits for treatment. We estimate the worldwide medical tourism market is growing at a rate of 15-25%, with inbound patient flows highest in Mexico, Southeast and South Asia.
How much can you save?
Using US costs across a variety of specialties and procedures as a benchmark, average range of savings for the most-traveled destinations:
- Brazil: 20-30%
- Costa Rica: 45-65%
- India: 65-90%
- Malaysia: 65-80%
- Mexico: 40-65%
- Singapore: 25-40%
- South Korea: 30-45%
- Taiwan: 40-55%
- Thailand: 50-75%
- Turkey: 50-65%
We are happy to provide detailed comparative cost data, by country and procedure, upon request.
What is international accreditation?
Trusted international accreditation has become one of the biggest drivers in the growth of the medical tourism market. Responding to a global demand for accreditation standards, the US-based Joint Commission launched its international affiliate agency in 1999, the Joint Commission International (JCI). In order to be accredited by the JCI, an international hospital must meet the same set of rigorous standards set forth in the US by the Joint Commission. More than 600 hospitals and clinical departments around the world have now been awarded JCI accreditation and that number is growing by about 20% per year.
More recently, established agencies that accredit outpatient clinics, such as 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.