Medical Tourism Continues to Be a Growing Industry – Industry Insurance

Medical Tourism is not just a relatively new invention in terms of international healthcare, seeking to connect patients with doctors and medical facilities in other countries, but is also turning into a growing industry for countries in which the cost of providing medical care is greatly reduced in comparison to nations such as the US, UK and other European countries among others. Many countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East are attempting to spur on the development of their own medical tourism industries.Countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore, Costa Rica and South Korea that have more established facilities catering to medical tourists, have demonstrated to many other countries that medical tourism is not just a feasible industry, but a profitable one too. This has seen many other countries in similar regions and circumstances try to develop their own medical tourism market segments.Malaysia has been very successful in nurturing the growth of healthcare facilities providing services to foreigners in recent years. With many staff at hospitals having been trained in the US and the UK, their ability to provide quality healthcare and English language capabilities have helped them bring in many healthcare tourists. This has helped grow the industry 30 percent over the last three years, from around US$120.3 million in 2010 to approximately US$162.3 million in 2012.Similarly, the health tourism industry in Dubai has been growing at a healthy clip. Dubai has been focused on developing their healthcare capabilities for a number of years. In 2002, the country announced the Dubai Healthcare City initiative as a way to improve the healthcare facilities of the country by building facilities and a bureaucratic system that would attract leading foreign investment and talent to create hospitals, clinics, and laboratories that would improve the state of healthcare and spur development of the health tourism industry in the Emirate.With the first phase of the Dubai Healthcare City having been completed in 2005, Dubai has continued to build and entice new healthcare providers to take part in the Dubai Healthcare City project to where it now has more than 2,500 professionals working throughout the project’s 2 hospitals and more than 90 outpatient clinics and laboratories. The Dubai Healthcare City had around 502,000 patients in 2011, 15 percent of which were foreign health tourists. The Dubai Healthcare Authority says this will put them on track to earn AED 6.1 billion (US$ 1.6 billion) in revenues from health tourism by the end of 2012.Meanwhile, the Philippines have recently approved the construction of a hospital complex in Quezon City to boost the medical tourism industry. The Philippines’ Board of Investments gave their approval to the 1.2 billion peso (US$ 27.6 million) project which will see the construction of a 500-bed hospital, which it is hoped will help the country reach their target of US$ 3 billion in revenue by 2015.However, while medical tourism has gone a long way to alleviating the costs of treatment for some patients and developing a new industry, there are certainly some concerns that have arisen. There are some more general concerns involved in compressing both medical treatment and recovery time into a few days or weeks, as well as questions of how robust the local medical malpractice laws are in case of negligence. There are also increasing worries over picking up infectious diseases in some countries where medical tourism is a booming industry.Take NDM-1, or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, which is a gene in bacteria that has transformed once common bacteria into multi-drug resistant bugs that are even immune to many anti-biotic drugs that are typically used as a last resort. Singapore found six NDM-1 cases in 2010, the first of which was a Singapore resident who had recently traveled to India for medical treatment, while the second patient was visiting Singapore from Bangladesh for treatment. Other cases in the United States, Britain, Europe, Hong Kong and Australia have also been observed.So while medical tourism has been a boon to many a developing nation’s economy and to individuals looking to save money on expensive medical care, there are certainly valid concerns that need to be weighed and addressed, both by prospective patients and leaders managing health tourism programs in their respective countries.