As inbound medical tourism picks up, concerns about overseas care remain

By Kaitlin Morrison-Greenlund

Medical tourism is increasingly becoming a two-way street. Americans aren't just seeking lower-cost health services abroad, but patients from all over the world are also more willing to travel overseas for top-notch, full-price U.S. healthcare. But opportunities and concerns surrounding the trend are attracting attention from industry leaders, investors and politicians.

New York, Maine and Florida are just a few states proving to have strong medical-tourism magnetism. Their foreign customers are often wealthy and willing to pay full prices out-of-pocket for excellent care, according to an article published in Medical Tourism Magazine.

"I had an amazing experience. During my prenatal visits, I was well-informed and understood what to expect during delivery. Checking in and out of the hospital was stress-free," a Saudi woman, who was a recent patient at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told the magazine.

Meanwhile in Maine, Chinese medical tourists will soon be able to get royal treatment at Auburn Main Mill, a shoe mill that Central Maine Medical Center and the Chinese investment group Miracle Enterprise are converting into an upscale healthcare facility, International Medical Travel Journal reported.

"We will target clients that are wealthy Chinese individuals who, upon their arrival at the five-star facility, will get a complete work-up on their health. This will include a physical examination, stem cell analysis and genetic analysis and testing, all to analyze the health condition of that person and what kind of treatments he or she needs," Michelle Wu, of Miracle Enterprise, told the journal.

Florida is also getting in on the game, having launched in 2014 a state-supported medical tourism program called Discover Florida Health, Medical Tourism Magazine reported. Meanwhile, the Sunshine State has also boosted funding for healthcare initiatives and has set a goal to become America's healthiest state, the article added.

The ranks of medical travelers leaving the United States for less expensive treatments abroad such as hip replacements, dental work and cosmetic procedures is growing at a rate of 25 percent to 35 percent each year, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Nations that have particularly high-quality care at a great price, such as Canada, attract the most attention from travelers.

Research indicates that this trend may be dangerous to travelers' health, however, with less rigorous procedural standards, infection-control issues, language barriers and travel-related bodily stress creating potential health risks, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. 

To learn more:
- read this Medical Tourism Magazine article about medical tourism and the Middle East
- check out the International Medical Travel Journal article
- check out the Medical Tourism Magazine article about Florida medical tourism