One of the major practices in healthcare is the process of ‘patient outsourcing’, in the form of medical tourism or ‘Medical travel’. This form of business protocol is becoming hugely popular in the developed countries of the world, as it has tremendous benefits.
Medical tourism is a deliberate effort to combine health issues along with travel for tourism and leisure (Health Base, 2006, Recover Discover, 2007).
Several organizations may be involved in the process of medical tourism including:-
The governments – They are responsible for framing a policy that would ensure regulated flow of tourists from one part of the globe to another to enable effective healthcare provision. Besides, it would also ensure that the tourists can obtain valid travel documents easily.
Hospital Associations – Associations founded between the hospitals of the tourist and the destination country are required to communicate with each other so as to help in the flow of medical tourists.
This is to ensure that all ethical and legal issues are addressed, and an effective marketing communication system can exist. It would be ideal for the patient to first speak to his/her usual healthcare provider before seeking medical facilities in another nation. Hospitals in the west can also consider recognizing and providing accreditation for hospitals in developing nations, so that the quality standards prevailing is well-understood.
Travel authorities – They are the authorities who are providing valid travel documents and permission required to enable medical treatment in another nation. The authorities should understand the need and urgency for medical treatment and hence would have to permit such travel.
Travel agencies – They would have to communicate with other parties in the destination to ensure that the health and travel needs of the tourist is meet, keeping in mind quality, cost-effectiveness and hassle-free processes. The travel agency would have to provide the travelers with customized packages that are cost-effective and seem attractive. They would also have to market the health packages in the West, to demonstrate clear advantages to the ones existing at home.
Ministry of Commerce and trade (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003).
Through the process of globalization, many countries are beginning to closely review their economic strengths and risks. If something is costly in one nation, immediately the resources present in other nations would be approached and utilized.
In medical tourism, the individual would be using cost-effective options in order to fulfill their healthcare needs in areas where the limitations may be less. These limitations can be several and can be utilized to the advantage of the individual. Some of the limitations which can be met through medical tourism include:-
Going from one nation where certain types of treatment are not available, to another where treatment is available.
Going from one country to another, where the quality of treatment is better, improved technology and where expertise in health is available, and innovative options are present Going from one country to another where treatment is provided in a more cost-effective manner Going from one nation to another where medical treatment including surgery is provided in a more timely manner (to reduce the waiting periods for elective surgeries)
Including the family members and seeking treatment away from home where the usual stressful factors would not be felt (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003)
Medical tourisms can take place from one nation to another and from one region of a nation to another region within the same nation. The trend today is that many people from the western or developing nations (which have a very restrictive health setup) are moving to the east, where the practices and policies do favor provision of several benefits in healthcare. There are many unique features of the prospects of medical tourism:-
The nations which serve as a market for medical tourisms are providing several attractive policies and practices
They are using vary attractive marketing strategies to encourage business – An example of this would be to combine medical health visits with holidays to exotic tourist destinations. Many people from the developed nations are finding such packages very attractive and are considering them as they are not only cheaper but also meet their customized needs, conveniently.
The developing nations such as Thailand, India, Latin America and China, are offering more holistic kind of treatment and are providing several complementary and alternative treatments that deviate away from allopathic medicine. Many of these treatments have proven to be effective. Besides, the treatment facilities are provided in more natural kinds of environment, thus encouraging better healing and recovery (Hutchinson, 2005, Heatlhbase, 2006 & American University, 2003).
Medical tourism can be held for various reasons including health and wellness tourism, reproductive purposes, alternative treatment strategies, preventive medical care, spa tourism, surgical tourism, dental tourism, diet and nutrition tourism, transplant tourism, cosmetic tourism, spiritual tourism or even for end-of-life purposes. Often the individual requiring health treatment would also like to include their family members in the process.