Medical tourism is not only a relatively new invention for international healthcare, which aims to connect patients with doctors and medical facilities in other countries, but also becomes a growing industry for countries where the cost of healthcare is reduced significantly compared to nations such as the United States, Britain and other European countries among others. Many countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East, are trying to stimulate the development of their own medical tourism industries.
Countries like India, Thailand, Singapore, Costa Rica and South Korea, which have more established facilities that cater to medical tourists, have shown to many other countries that medical tourism is not only a viable industry but also profitable. This has seen many other countries in similar regions and circumstances try to develop their own markets for medical tourism.
Malaysia has been very successful in promoting the growth of healthcare facilities offering services to foreigners in recent years. With many hospital staff who have been trained in the United States and the United Kingdom, their ability to provide quality healthcare and English-speaking opportunities have helped them bring in many healthcare tourists. This has helped increase industry by 30 percent over the last three years, from about 120.3 million US dollars in 2010 to approximately 162.3 million US dollars in 2012.
Similarly, the health tourism industry in Dubai has grown on a healthy cut. Dubai has focused on developing its care opportunities over a number of years. In 2002, the country announced the Dubai Healthcare City initiative as a way to improve the countrys health services by building facilities and a bureaucratic system that would attract leading foreign investment and talents to create hospitals, clinics and laboratories that would improve the state of health care and stimulate the development of health tourism industry in the Emirates.
With the first phase of Dubai Healthcare City completed in 2005, Dubai has continued to build and attract new healthcare providers to participate in the Dubai Healthcare City project, where it now has more than 2,500 professionals throughout the project, 2 hospitals and more than 90 outpatient clinics and laboratories. Dubai Healthcare City had about 502,000 patients in 2011, of which 15 percent were foreign health tourists. The Dubai Healthcare Authority says that this will provide them the right track to earn $ 6.1 billion ($ 1.6 billion) in health tourism revenue by the end of 2012.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has recently approved the construction of a hospital complex in Quezon City to increase the medical tourism industry. The Philippines Investment Board gave its approval to the $ 1.2 billion peso project ($ 27.6 million) that will see the construction of a 500-bed hospital that hopes will help the country reach its $ 3 billion target by 2015.
But while medical tourism has gone far to relieve the cost of treatment for some patients and to develop a new industry, there are certainly some concerns that have arisen. There are some more general issues involved in compressing both medical treatment and recovery time to a few days or weeks, as well as questions about how robust the local health care is in the event of negligence. There is also increasing concern about picking up communicable diseases in some countries where medical tourism is a flourishing industry.
Take NDM-1 or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, a gene in bacteria that has transformed once-a-time common bacteria into multi-drug resistant bugs that are even immune to many anti-biotic drugs commonly used as a last resort . Singapore found six NDM-1 cases in 2010, the first of which was a resident of Singapore who recently traveled to India for medical treatment, while the other patient visited Singapore from Bangladesh for treatment. Other cases in the United States, Great Britain, Europe, Hong Kong and Australia have also been observed.
So while medical tourism has been a blessing for the economies of many developing countries and for individuals who want to save money on expensive healthcare, there are certainly valid issues that must be weighed and addressed, both by potential patients and leaders who manage health tourism programs in their respective countries.