You’ve Seen It In The News: Now, What Is Health Tourism Exactly?
When you think about top tourism destinations, you are likely picturing white sand beaches or well-known landmarks, and not usually a hospital. Unlike expeditions that allow travellers to kick back and relax, more and more people are travelling in search of accessible healthcare.
With wait times for medical treatment on the rise on a global scale, as well high costs of inflation, medical tourism is in the forefront of not only the tourism industry, but in media as well. With so many discussions on health tourism in the public eye, there is only one remaining question: what is it?
The best way of understanding health tourism is patients travelling either nationally or internationally for the purpose of benefiting their health and wellness. For some, this might be seeking out options for cosmetic surgery or dental care, or it might be in search of health care treatments that are not available at home. More often than not, it is in search of surgical or medical procedures that are necessary to improving quality of life. In order to understand why cross-country and international travel is becoming an increasingly popular option for medical care, it is important to understand the climate at home, as well as the motivation of patients.
Health Service in Canada: A Quick Glimpse
Outside of Canada, healthcare systems are often portrayed as being day trips in and out of medical clinics or hospitals, with no cost to patients. By presenting this idealized version of Canadian health care systems, it can leave some wondering why anyone would need to look elsewhere for medical care. The truth is that wait times for medical testing and procedures are very long across the country, and do come with a price tag.
The Consequences of Long Wait Times: Canada has longer wait times than other countries that follow the same model of universal healthcare. Following the pandemic, these wait times have only increased. Longer wait times are not just minor inconveniences. Patients that are experiencing pain and discomfort due to chronic illness or injury will often experience negative impacts on mental health and overall quality of life, as well as loss of economic capabilities. Delayed treatments can allow potentially reversible or treatable ailments to become worse, resulting in permanent disability.
Costs Associated With Medical Procedures: Medical procedures and medication in Canada are not free. Even with insurance, Canadians are delaying treatments based on economic downturns or financial insecurity. Depending on medical coverage offered by employers, Canadians can drastically reduce the costs of necessary procedures but in the case of fertility treatments, it can be cost-effective to visit a health tourism destination with specialists in that field.
Health Tourism: A Glossary
The health and wellness industry spans across a broad range of disciplines, from the cosmetic, to the holistic, the pharmaceutical and the surgical. In order to understand and decide whether or not you would benefit from medical tourism, health tourism or wellness tourism, it is important to understand the terminology.
- Health Tourism: is an umbrella term that covers travelling with a primary motivation of improving physical, mental and/or spiritual health through wellness-based activities and non-invasive medical treatments.
- Wellness Tourism: focuses on mental, intellectual and spiritual health. The main goal is to engage with preventative, proactive healing, while promoting engagement in personal health and wellness. Often has a focus on eastern healing and meditation.
- Medical Tourism: travel for the purpose of receiving medical and surgical treatments. This includes both invasive and non-invasive procedures and can range from diagnosis, testing, treatments, presentation and rehabilitation.
Why Is Health Tourism Becoming Increasingly Popular?
Over-burdened health care systems have got medical tourists on the move, travelling between provinces and even seeking medical care in the United States and beyond. In addition to longer wait times, the most common causes of health tourism are a lack of insurance coverage, the availability of certain procedures, the low cost of travel, advances in technology in nearby countries and the number of medical experts available.
In the past, medical tourism primarily consisted of patients travelling from remote locations or those with economic difficulty, travelling to more developed countries for medical care. Now, more and more patients from North America are travelling abroad to beat longer wait times and avoid the high cost of treatments.
Tourism Brokers: Medical tourism brokers are not standard travel agents. Brokers focus on creating specialized travel plans, that focus on connecting patients with the right medical experts. With a wide network of clinics, physicians and surgeons on call, it is possible to connect clients with reputable treatments, providing peace of mind.
Low Travel Costs: Following the pandemic, the cost of travel is more accessible than ever. With plenty of countries eager to bring in guests and visitors, it is easy to plan long-term stays for the duration of procedures, as well as recuperation and rehabilitation.
Initiatives & Insurance Policies: Throughout Canada, more and more insurance companies are recognizing the benefits of health tourism and it is being reflected in policies. The ability to travel in search of procedures alleviates stress on healthcare systems at home and reduces the cost of caring for an aging or ailing population. Decreasing the reliance on pharmaceuticals is not only good for patients, but it is better for health care systems overall.
Technological Advancements: As the economic status of a country improves, so does its medical field. The disparity between treatments available in Canada and other, formally less developed countries, is becoming smaller with every passing year. This means being able to receive the same treatments abroad, with the added advantage of not having to deal with long wait times.
Economic Benefits: By offering accessible treatments to local residents, as well as patients from abroad, countries are able to not only supply necessary care, but to help to improve the overall economy by bringing foreign money in.
From plastic surgery, fertility treatments, spinal surgery, and more, there is nothing that an experienced broker can’t help fix. For those Canadians who are looking to stay within the country, it is possible to connect patients with medical specialists across the map. The thought of travelling to a different country for the purpose of surgery or medical care can be stressful, but as health tourism becomes more and more popular, it will become a standard mode of health care.