Medical travel has grown strongly during the 21st century. Cosmetic, fertility and dental treatments are among the most popular with medical travellers. The factors driving this upsurge in medical travel include the high cost of healthcare in industrialised nations; the ease and affordability of international travel; and improvements in technology and standards of care in many countries around the world.
However, the report highlights that it is not a sector without controversy. Ethical issues arise around the sale of organs for donation in poorer countries. Also, there are questions around people returning home with infections or creating burden on their domestic health services owing to complications resulting from surgery overseas.
The annual number of medical travellers worldwide amounts to 5.5 million
Key medical tourism trends as outlined by LaingBuisson:
• The greater proportion of medical travel is regional or domestic within a country
• Many medical tourists do not seek out the cheapest destination
• The top three European destinations are also the most expensive ones
• Much medical tourism is for cosmetic, fertility or dental treatment
• There are more failed medical tourism projects than successes
• Many countries have stopped promoting medical tourism
• Many trade associations and medical tourism agencies have now disappeared