1st Apr, 2009 | Source : Newsweek Showcase Archives
The World is getting smaller. Information can be exchanged from different parts of the world in a matter of seconds; and people can travel anywhere they wish in less than a day. The birth of new technologies and improvements in transportation, has transformed the globe's vast population into a smaller, almost boundary-less "Global Community."
The Healthcare industry has made sure to take full advantage of these advances. Since communication is much easier and immediate, research facilities can work together on cures, treatments and extending the boundaries of medical science.
From a 'consumer' point of view, it is now possible to take advantage of both cheap airfares and often higher standards or more affordable medical treatment in foreign countries that better suit their circumstances, than those available in their own lands.
An increasing number of individuals are finding the quality and range of services available in other countries mean it makes financial and medical sense to travel to obtain superior surgical (or dental) care. The 'Medical Tourism' industry has grown rapidly, and is often combined with 'genuine' aspects of travel and tourism, such as sight-seeing, visiting attractions or more relaxing vacations.
The sense that medical care can be reached anywhere in the world has sprung from a combination of factors. Firstly, industrialized nations are to all extents and purposes 'pricing themselves out of the market', with several treatments simply too expensive for many consumers. Another factor is the cost and ease of inter-continental travel as well as the investment being offered by countries in certain parts of the world (especially areas of South East Asia) to attract these 'medical tourists'.
Even if cost is not the over-riding factor, the wait for surgeries in some developed nations can be off-putting. For example, Great Britain has reported a surge in the number of people traveling outside the country to avoid the notorious queues in the National Health Service (which is free to the public), which can often be for a year or more for some surgical procedures.
As well as South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and The Philippines, popular destinations for medical treatment include India (which takes global healthcare so seriously that it is positioning itself as the primary destination for advanced medical procedures in the world), South Africa (where you can experience a worryingly named 'Medical Safari') South America, and even some Middle Eastern and Eastern European nations.
From a patient perspective, the benefits of global healthcare are numerous. There are concerns that these medical procedures can carry risks, however, there is little evidence to support this and as long as the patient makes certain that they are covered by their insurance then why not combine a necessary operation with some quality recuperation time on a Tropical beach or in idyllic surrounds?