Medical Tourism Statistics and Facts
Today, over 50 countries have recognized medical tourism as a national industry. The medical tourism industry is a multi-billion dollar market, according to some sources expected to reach $100 billion by 2012. The future will tell whether this is a factual number or not.
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The thorny issue with medical tourism statistics
In Deloitte Consulting’s well-known forecast from 2008, medical tourism originating in the US was estimated to jump by a factor of ten over the next decade. The economic downturn has greatly affected this forecast, and with the medical tourism industry declining in 2008 and 2009, only to slowly regain growth, the industry is reaching a more mature stage with more modest progression.
There are numerous examples of medical tourism statistics being elevated to impress hospital decision makers and to bring them near to invest in medical tourism. For instance, about 70,000 medical tourists come to Germany each year. However, a high proportion of these are treated in ski resorts such as Garmisch for ski accidents, and should therefore not be counted as medical tourists.
Positively, there is more academic research being performed in this area, and with proven infrastructure, the medical tourism industry can expect updated, factual, and transparent data within the coming decade.
What is a medical tourist?
Defining, and statistically calculating a medical tourist is easier said than done. Many countries present two separate figures, one for health and wellness tourism, and one for medical tourism. Including in the former are statistical nightmares such as whether a spa-tourist should be counted as a medical tourist or a holidaymaker. And what about visitors to the increasingly popular medical spa and detox centers? Another inflationary factor is the expatriate resident, visiting hospitals on a recurring basis, being wrongfully counted as a medical tourist (often defined as a “fly-in” patient). Currently, there is no globally uniform definition of a medical tourist, which naturally makes statistics impossible. Each country practices its own definition and its own way of calculating statistics. The numbers below should therefore just be taken as general guidelines.
Medical Tourism across the world
Medical travel to and from the US
The outbound US market, previously believed to expand greatly during the next decade, has proved to be smaller than anticipated. A modest and reliable assumption would be that a few hundred thousand Americans travel abroad for medical and dental treatments. Although it’s more common for Americans to go abroad for healthcare and medical treatments, some 60,000-85,000 patients travel to the US with the purpose of receiving in-patient medical care each year.
Medical tourism statistics for Africa and the Middle East
Jordan is the largest medical travel destination in the Middle East, visited by 265,000 medical tourists in 2010. Related revenues exceed $US 1 billion.
Israel is an emerging medical tourism destination, visited by 15,000 foreign patients in 2006.
Medical tourism statistics in Asia/Pacific
Together with Thailand, India is one of the most popular destinations for foreign patients. India’s medical tourism sector is expected to grow with 30% on a yearly basis.
The South Korean government has invested large sums into making South Korea one of the leading medical tourism destinations. CNN.com’s listing of South Korea as one of the “hot destinations” for medical tourism has helped this quest. The South Korean Ministry of Health has set the target for 2015 to up to 300,000 medical tourists per year.
The Philippines is another emerging medical tourism market. Medical tourism is growing with 8% per year.
In 2006, about 300,000 medical travelers visited Malaysia, and in 2007 this number had increased to more than 350,000 international patients.
In 2000, Singapore received 410,000 medical tourists. In 2008, 646,000 people visited Singapore for medical treatment or related reasons. This is 13% increase from the previous year, and an increase on about 250,000 patients per year since 2000. As many of these were family members or friends accompanying the patients, the actual number of sole medical tourists receiving treatment was 370,000, with combined revenue of $1.5 billion.
Thailand is the most famous country for medical tourism. In 2006, medical tourism was projected to earn the country 36.4 billion baht, circa US$ 1.2 billion. It is said, that 1,5 million medical tourists visit Thailand each year. This number includes expats living in Thailand, tourists ending up in hospitals due to accidents. One must also take in the notion that many hospitals count the number of hospital visits instead of actual patients in order to raise the statistics.
Medical Tourism Statistics in the Americas
Due to its proximity and close relations to the US, Costa Rica is attracting over 20,000 US patients per year. Cuba is regarded as one of the first medical tourism destinations, tapping into the industry in the 1970s. Cuba attracts nearly 20,000 medical tourists per year. Brazil and Venezuela are two of the most popular cosmetic surgery destinations in the world, with Brazil boosting over 4,500 licensed cosmetic surgeons, which is the highest per capita in the world.
Medical Tourism in Europe
Europe has always experienced a small number of regional or even local cross-border healthcare. With the new EU law on patient mobility, medical tourism is expected to grow within the EU states, particularly benefiting the newer Easter European membership states.
Turkey attracts medical tourism from all over Europe, the Middle East, the US and the Balkans, hosting about 40,000 medical tourists annually.
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