Medical tourism – why is it becoming more and more popular? Medical tourism is traveling to other cities or countries in order to improve one’s health. It is also often associated with ordinary holidays consisting in visiting monuments and other recreational activities. Importantly, the number of tourists traveling for medical purposes is increasing year by year, and the society is gradually becoming more aware of the possibilities and advantages of medical tourism. What is the reason for the rapid development of this industry? Does using health care outside the place of residence actually make economic sense?
Medical tourism saves money
Among the numerous reasons why people decide to travel for health purposes, economic factors prevail. Prices of medical services can vary significantly not only between specific countries, but also between regions of these countries. Therefore, medical tourism is divided into domestic and international. According to research conducted in 2016 at the University of Madrid, among Europeans, travel for health purposes is most often chosen by residents of large agglomerations, in particular capital cities. The reason for this is the very high prices of medical procedures performed in cities. The reasons for this state of affairs include significantly higher housing costs or staff costs. Therefore, many inhabitants of large cities decide to travel to the provinces.
By plane abroad
International medical tourism has a very similar character. An important factor here is the issue of health insurance available in the country of residence of the tourist. Problems with the quality and accessibility of local health services are a significant incentive to travel abroad. The issue of the difference in the purchasing value of currencies in relation to earnings in given countries also plays a large role – the earnings of Germans or French are much higher than the earnings of Poles, which makes Polish prices much more attractive to foreigners than local prices. Thanks to this, a boom in medical tourism to the countries of the former Warsaw Pact has been observed in recent years. The prices of dental procedures or simple surgeries in countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria or Russia are extremely attractive to Europeans. The low cost of international travel also contributes significantly to the promotion of medical tourism. The spread of cheap flights and rooms available through applications such as AirBnB further increase the economic attractiveness of medical travel.
A small but very important niche in medical tourism are specialized, experimental treatments and therapies performed only in specific, single medical centers. We are talking here about innovative methods of treating various cancers or diseases caused by genetic defects. In countries with lower-quality health services, medical technology is usually outdated. Desperate patients, out of concern for their health, decide to travel abroad. This type of medical tourism is usually associated with high costs for the patient. Experimental treatment is usually a long-term process that even involves a permanent, temporary move to another place of residence.
Medical treatments prohibited by law
An important segment of medical tourism are procedures prohibited by law in the countries where tourists live. Every year, thousands of women from Poland go abroad in order to have an abortion. In many countries, abortion is illegal or only partially legal, as are some fertility treatments. Women who want to terminate their pregnancy face the choice of using the illegal and unregulated services offered in their country of residence, or travel to another country where they can legally perform the procedure. It is worth noting that abortion abroad is usually associated with very high costs, which means that many women cannot afford it for economic reasons. The most common countries to which Polish women go to terminate pregnancy are Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Medical tourism – is it worth it?
The growing popularity of medical tourism significantly increases the number of advantages associated with this form of health care. Travel costs are falling, social awareness of medical tourism is growing, and companies are increasingly opening up to customers from around the world. Therefore, before deciding on a medical procedure in the place of residence, it is worth checking the offers and prices in other cities. Medical tourism allows you to find a cheaper, alternative medical service, which allows you to save money and, if you wish, visit another corner of the world. It is no wonder that the number of medical tourists is increasing year by year.