The problem with medical tourism

I’m an advocate for sending patients overseas for medical treatment when it’s justified by quality and cost considerations. However, I really object to the term medical tourism. To me, tourism connotes an entertaining, fun-filled vacation trip made with discretionary dollars. I suppose spa treatments and some cosmetic procedures could fit the definition, but tourism seems like just the wrong term for a trip to another country for a hernia repair or kidney transplant.

It’s really more like a business trip than tourism, though I don’t think medical business would be the right term either.

Promoters will make some progress marketing a trip that combines fun with medical care, but I think positioning the services more seriously would be a much better idea.

January 15, 2007

5 thoughts on “The problem with medical tourism”

  1. I completely agree with you that “medical tourism” is a huge misnomer, more implying fun ‘n sun than the serious health challenges involved in this complex new arena. Yet, the term has stuck, and like it or not, folks in the industry must live with it for a time.

    As author of the forthcoming consumer guidebook “Patients Beyond Borders: Everybody’s Guide to Affordable, World-Class Medical Tourism,” we agonized over the title, and realised that other terms, such as “health travel” and “medical travel” meant different things to different people. So, while we felt compelled to include the term in the title, the book’s introduction carries a strong caveat, and we use the terms “medical travel” and “health travel” throughout its pages.

    Increasingly, the media as well as health consumers are coming to see that traveling abroad for treatment, particularly the more invasive and expensive cardiovascular and orthopedic procedures, is challenging enough without (inappropriate)vacation planning in the mix.

    We encourage patients to focus on quality care, and a successful health journey experience; then use some of their hard-won savings for a getaway after they’ve returned home, and fully recovered.

  2. Here is a web site I found on healthcare tourism safety.

    HealthCare Trip (,

    a HealthCare Tourism International 501 c 3 nonprofit organization in the United States, is an organization that provides safety and accreditation to healthcare tourism service providers including medical tourism operators, hotel chains and transport companies.

    They are non-profit and they also have a complaint and dispute resolution service for patients.

  3. Ya, it sure is a misnomer but whatever the term it does save people a lot of their hard-earned money. And what better if you can find a medical tourism facilitator who can connect you to the right international hospital and also take care of your other needs like pre-treatment research on various procedures, letting you correspond wih the surgeons who are going to be treating you, your travel needs, finance, et al.

    I found one such excellent medical tourism operator – Healthbase at Check out the variety of service offerings they have for all your medical tourism needs.

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