As the name suggests, medical tourism is receiving medical care outside the country in which one lives. Medical tourism has become more prevalent in recent years, generating interest among policymakers, researchers, and the media. In its original sense, the term referred to the travel by patients from a less-developed country to a developed nation to seek treatment unavailable to them at home.
The trend of patient mobility is changing both qualitatively and quantitatively, as patients now move from richer to less-developed countries to receive health care. This shift is primarily due to the relatively low cost of medical treatment in less developed countries, affordable flights, and increased consumer awareness about the availability of medical services online.
After receiving medical treatment, patients often stay in the foreign country for several days before leaving the country. It makes medical tourism a genuine tourist concept. In this way, visitors can visit attractions, go on excursions, or do other traditional tourism activities while on vacation.
Although many medical tourists come from developed or developing countries, an increasing number of affluent consumers come from the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Africa, and Thailand are among the most popular medical tourism destinations.
In medical tourist-focused facilities, doctors have advanced medical degrees, and they have state-of-the-art facilities. In addition, websites and travel agencies that promote medical tourism often offer packages, describing the recovery process as vacation-like.
Medical tourist-focused facilities may offer medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery, cardiac surgery, eye surgery, dental surgery, and orthopedic surgery. They may also offer psychiatric services such as gender reassignment surgery, which might not be socially or culturally acceptable in other countries.
Medical tourism is commonly criticized for its inconsistent quality of care. To standardize the delivery of international health care, there is a need for a central body, hence accreditation. An accredited medical tourism facility meets basic safety standards, has trained personnel, and has all required medical equipment.
The Joint Commission International (JCI) is a subsidiary of Joint Commission Resources, a U.S. company. Accreditation Canada International, a Canadian firm, and the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International are other organizations that accredit international hospitals.