Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism

Travel isn’t just about seeing the sights, relaxing, and having a good time. Sometimes, travel has practical, even medical, reasons. While tourism is just visiting a location to experience it, medical tourism is when a person travels outside of their country for the purpose of receiving medical care. Originally people from less developed countries would travel to more developed countries for this care. Nowadays, however, people are traveling from more developed countries to less developed countries and then taking time to explore the area as tourists would. With all the possible locations for medical tourism outside of the US, thousands of US residents do it every year and it is expected to continue growing over the next decade. Most US residents decide to be medical tourists because of costs and access. In many countries, medical care of a specific kind is cheaper than you would find in the US and there are some procedures that might not be offered in the US (for example, cytoplasmic transfer and stem cell therapy). While any kind of medical care can be found outside of the US, the most popular kinds of medical procedures involve elective cosmetic surgery, dentistry, organ transplantation, cardiac surgery, and orthopedic surgery. In addition to serious medical procedures, some people also use medical tourism to find various essential treatments as well as different kinds of traditional and alternative treatments. Whatever a person’s reason is for participating in medical tourism, though, there are many things to consider before setting off on that journey.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Tourism

While in its simplest form, medical tourism sounds amazing. Finding medical treatment at a fraction of the cost all while touring an amazing city and experiencing a new and exciting culture? Sign me up! And while there are a good many advantages to medical tourism, there are quite a few disadvantages as well.

For the advantages, the first and most obvious pro is the cost. Because of the high-tax economy in the United States as well as the high market for medical tourism in other countries, you can often find medical treatments and procedures for a fraction of the cost outside of the States. Second, there is often a shorter wait time for medical care outside of the US because of the medical tourism business with the agencies and accredited medical centers making sure of this. With over 600 JCI-accredited medical facilities, patients have access to high standards of care that might not be available in their home countries. In addition to medical care, places that are connected to medical tourism agencies also offer post-op care. This care helps patients recover in a relaxed atmosphere before they return to their home country. Finally, a big advantage of medical tourism is that once you’re done (or before you start), you can visit amazing sights, eat amazing food, and experience amazing cultures.

On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages to consider. First, it is super important to check out all the legal documents and permits needed for the medical procedure. If you are unaware of legalities in other countries, you could find yourself in serious trouble. Language is also a big barrier. In many places, English is not the common language. If you are not able to communicate with the medical provider, there might be misunderstandings with your treatments, which isn’t something that you want. There have also been stories of the quality of care or the cost of the treatment being different than what was communicated. For this reason, it’s important to do as much research as possible and to talk with your primary medical care provider before taking a medical tourism trip. Finally, there is the risk of health problems simply because the procedure is happening outside of your home country. All around the globe, antibiotic resistance is a problem. While you become accustomed to the bacteria in your home country, you might have problems with the bacteria in other countries. In addition, flying after surgery can increase the risk of blood clots, further complicating a serious medical condition.

While weighing the pros and cons of medical tourism, it is important to talk to your primary health provider and consult with a medical tourism agency before making plans. Doing so can prevent costly mistakes and misunderstandings.


While it is best to consult with a medical professional and medical tourism agent before heading out on any kind of medical tourism trip, there are a few tips that we can share that can help you decide whether to look into it further.

  • Take the time to research the place you’re going to visit.
  • Make sure that any current medical conditions are well controlled before traveling and let your primary health provider know your plans for medical tourism.
  • Check the qualifications of the health care provider in the location which you are traveling to.
  • Take copies of your medical history, prescriptions, and anything health related with you.
  • Make sure you have a written agreement with the health care facility defining the care, supplies, costs, and anything else that is covered by the trip.
  • If you are going to a country in which you do not speak the language, figure out ahead of time how you are going to be able to communicate.

If you are still interested in medical tourism, there are a few locations that stick out above others in terms of quality of care, cost, and general experience, including Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Turkey, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Jun 12th 2020 Ashley Baughman

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