Medical Tourism: Its State and Evolution in 2022 and Beyond

By  //  May 13, 2022

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There is no doubt that the pandemic upended most of the world and how things used to be. Any activity that involves travel was affected, especially travel outside one’s country, and this includes medical tourism. Experts agree that even though medical tourism is coming back, it is not as easy as returning to the way things were in 2019.

There is new context and development to consider to get a better idea of what the future holds for medical tourism. In this article, we will explore where things stand and how approaches to medical tourism are changing.

Changes to How Medical Tourism Is Viewed

Medical tourism involves traveling to a different country for medical treatment. Many countries have looked at their medical tourism sector and realized that they need to change how they view it. Many of them, because they cannot rely on external patients, are starting to focus on inbound patients while others are looking to increase revenues.

They are doing this by not focusing on the number of patients they can attract, but on the quality and cost of medical procedures instead. Others have realized that wellness tourism is a much better option than medical tourism. These are countries that lose millions of dollars when patients travel abroad to get medical care.

Targeting Locals

Some countries like China are already considering changing the definition of and views people have about medical tourism. The questions they are asking is, does medical tourism have to involve patients from outside their countries, or can it involve patients traveling within these countries to get medical interventions?

This is a serious consideration from a revenue and patient outcome perspective. Instead of patients taking money outside a country, they can spend it on healthcare inside the country, albeit at a different location. 

For patient outcomes, we know there are serious considerations to keep in mind if they want to travel home after surgery. Doctors often recommend that patients wait for a few days before flying after surgery. While there are a few things patients can do to make flying after surgery as safe as possible, risks are still present. If they can reduce the distance patients have to fly after surgery, they can reduce these risks.

Changing Approaches to Medical Tourism

As mentioned, many countries are moving from considering the number of medical tourists they receive to how much revenue they bring in. This means that they want people who spend a lot of money not only on their procedures but also on the country when they visit.

Responsible and eco-tourism will also affect the way countries handle medical tourism. If they deem that the effects to the environment from flying and increased medical tourists overshadows the revenue they can bring in, they might stop promoting medical tourism.

Despite what the pandemic might have shown, medical tourism is neither dead nor dying. It is evolving so that companies that see any changes coming won’t be out of business once things calm down. Inbound medical travel and increased revenue will be the main areas of focus for many countries.