Medical tourism market grows as patients travel to and from US

The growing trend of medical tourism is becoming more important for patients traveling both to and from the United States.

For example, Indiana University Health’s increasing focus on medical tourism is providing both the healthcare system and the state’s economy with a financial shot in the arm, according to Inside Indiana Business. IU started its International Patient Services program three years ago, and in 2015 served patients from 16 countries, offering everything from cancer treatment to neurosurgery.

"It's a big commitment to come half way around the world to receive treatment and we want to do everything to make the patients feel welcome and get the care they need,” said Lance Barnes, director of the program.

Meanwhile, the trend is expanding in the other direction as well, according to Benefits Pro, with the number of Americans seeking care abroad projected to increase 25 percent each year for the next decade. It’s largely a financial consideration, with countries such as India and Puerto Rico offering a knee replacement for as little as a third of the price in the United States. But there are other factors at play too; in some cases, a more relaxing foreign environment can provide the ideal location for a rehabilitative vacation, according to the article.

Reduced wait times are also a major driver of medical tourism for those coming to the U.S., according to Future Market Insights, particularly in patients from the U.K.

However, medical tourists should still keep the risks associated with medical tourism in mind, according to The Fiscal Times. Not only do language barriers or cultural differences pose the risk of dangerous miscommunication, there’s also the risk of jet lag impeding a patient’s recovery by weakening them, and different laws abroad can make it harder for patients to sue for malpractice or protect their privacy. Some of the top deterrents to the growth of the industry include the documentation process and insurance limitations, according to Future Market Insights.

- read the Inside Indiana Business article
- check out the Benefits Pro article (subscription may be required)
- read the Future Market Insights announcement
- here’s The Fiscal Times article