Medical tourism is booming, and people from all around the world have become accustomed to traveling overseas for medical care in another country. From plastic surgery to finding affordable donor eggs, an estimated 14-16 million worldwide travel abroad to receive less expensive or better care than in their home countries.
Much of the time it comes down to procedures being substantially cheaper overseas, or not being able to find the right treatment at home. And traveling to another country for treatment often means being able to avoid long waiting lists for elective procedures.
Though some medical tourists are immigrants who return to their home country for care, and others travel simply so they can avoid questions from family and friends (having the people of Thailand see the bandages from your nose job isn’t quite as bad as walking down the street at home).
Whatever your reason for seeking medical procedures overseas, reports suggest this industry is bringing in between $20 billion and $40 billion per year. As such, many countries fiercely compete to offer high-quality health care at a good price.
The following destinations are leaders within the industry of medical tourism, and we have included information about the procedures they are most popular for. Just remember the golden rule: thoroughly research the clinic and the location before you go!
The Most Popular Destinations For Medical Tourism
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Thailand is one of the world’s leading destinations for medical tourism, with the majority of procedures here costing 50% to 70% less than the same treatment in the western world. With over 1,000 public and private hospitals, it is reported that more than 1.4 million medical tourists are treated in Thai hospitals and clinics each year. MEDIGO curated clinics in Thailand are good way to ease the research and clear up the large amount of offers in the country.
Many people travel to Thailand for plastic and cosmetic surgery, and the country has earned a strong reputation as a leader in the field of gender reassignment, as well as burns and heart conditions.
Medical infrastructure in hospitals geared to foreigners is excellent, and the majority of the country’s doctors have been educated in either the western world or Singapore meaning they speak fluent English.
Hospitals and clinics throughout Mexico treat more than 1 million foreign patients a year, most of whom are Hispanics from California, Arizona and Texas returning home for medical care.
Though there are a large number of Americans and Canadians who take advantage of the healthcare in Mexico too, with popular procedures including cheap dental implants and weight-loss surgery.
Offering inexpensive high-difficulty surgeries, India has become an incredibly popular destination for medical tourism, and the market is said to bring in upwards of $4 billion per year in India alone.
The country is known for eye, spine and heart bypass surgeries, and while a number of patients are coming from surrounding countries that offer far less developed health care, western tourists end up saving over 75 – 90%. Other “popular treatments in India include those for fertility, orthopedic, cardiac and oncology problems and organ transplants. According to the Medical Tourism Resource Guide, a heart valve is worth about $15,000, versus $150,000 in the U.S.”
Healthcare in India has become much more accessible since the Indian government implemented visa-free travel for countries like the United States, and a definite perk in traveling to India is that almost everyone with a higher education speaks English.
Malaysia has been described as one of medical tourism’s best-kept secrets, “with fluent English spoken everywhere and cost-savings comparable to India, in less culturally jarring settings.”
Around half a million medical tourists travel to Malaysia every year, with most of them coming from Asian countries, as well as the UK, Australia, and the Middle East.
The medical infrastructure and facilities here are highly developed, and healthcare costs are low. Malaysian hospitals are renowned for in-vitro fertilization, oncology, general surgery, and their sophisticated treatment for burns victims. Physicals and blood work are substantially cheaper here than most western nations.
Medical tourism in Brazil is all about the cheap plastic surgery. There are more professional cosmetic-surgeons here than in any other country in the world, and hospitals are capable of handling just about any kind of surgical procedure that you can possibly imagine. There’s even plastic surgery available for your pet!
English is widely spoken, and most of the major hospitals have translators to help break the language barrier for non-English speaking patients. The most famous clinic is Ivo Pitanguy Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, which has performed more cosmetic surgeries than any other place in the world.
Turkey is a popular destination among tourists generally, and many European and American-trained doctors have taken up residence here, appealing to medical tourists from these regions. It has the most American-accredited hospitals of any other country, and with affordable healthcare, it is estimated that 32% of Turkey’s patients are medical tourists.
Patients travel for cardiac, cancer and orthopedic care, and the country has a reputation for being one of the best places in the world for eye treatments.
Laser surgery in particular is quite affordable here, costing approximately $1,100 for both eyes. The Dünyagöz Hospitals Group is a popular choice among foreign patients traveling to Turkey for eye-care.
Singapore has a global reputation for high-quality health care, especially when it comes to cancer treatments, and hospitals and clinics are beginning to partner with the government and tour operators in an attempt to promote medical tourism to wealthy foreigners looking to save money.
Procedures in Singapore are cheap, and the island is notoriously spotless and well organized. Patients gravitate here for general surgery and medicine, as well as cardiology, oncology and organ transplants, and English is an official language which helps.
Gleneagles Hospital was recently ranked as one of the world’s top-10 hospitals for medical tourism by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance, and according to the World Health Organization, Singapore is the best country in Asia (and the sixth best in the world) when it comes to health care.
A huge number of American citizens travel overseas to escape the high cost of treatments here, however despite the expense, the US is a popular destination among foreigners who do not have access to the same level of technology or surgical expertise in their home country.
The US is home to some of the world’s top medical specialists, and the country is known for world-class care for the hardest-to-treat cases. Popular clinics among international patients include the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
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Photo credits: Laser eye surgery by Focus Clinic.