by Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Insider. Just returned from the Medical Tourism Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Organized by the University of the Incarnate Word, it was well-run, insightful, and I learned a great deal. Dr. David Viquist and his dean are the visionaries behind positioning their university at the forefront of medical tourism research. Before coming to the conference the name – University of the Incarnate Word – was a puzzle to me, and frankly a bit of a turn-off. I was picturing a new age building on a corner somewhere with a few students and faculty. Clearly I was very wrong. The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) was founded in the late 1800’s by a group of Catholic sisters who made child care and health care a major focus. Today there are more than 6,000 students and an impressive array of undergraduate majors, masters, and PhD programs. Their nursing program is particularly well-known and with its location in San Antonio so close to Mexico, it now makes good sense to me why they would champion medical tourism research. Here is my round-up of some of the more interesting things I learned: Historically medical tourism was a one-way highway into the US. People came to famous hospitals such as: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, etc. That all changed after 9/11 when Middle Easterners quit coming and as costs skyrocketed making it attractive for Americans to go abroad. Key reasons people go abroad for medical treatment: 1. Treatment isn’t available at home – Ex. stem cells, liver/kidney transplants, fertility, abortions 2. Price is lower 3. More advanced technology available abroad Many countries are recruiting their neighbors as medical tourists – it’s not all about everyone wanting to attract Americans. Many aren’t trying to attract Americans at all because they consider Americans high-maintenance and have a tendency to sue.
- Thailand attracts Japanese
- Singapore services Asia
- Bangladesh serves East Africa and India
- Bolivia serves Chile
- Tunisia serves Libya
- Mexico endeavors to attract Americans and Canadians.
One way to look at medical tourism is to consider it:
- Light medical tourism: Wellness, exams, pharmaceuticals, spa, light dental
- Medium medical tourism: Lasik, implants, heavy dental
- Heavy medical tourism: Transplants, surgery, hip/knee replacement, major cosmetic surgery
Another way to categorize is to think of Medical Travel as one category and there are two subcategories: Medical Tourism (where patients find their doctors across borders) Traditional (where doctors advise their patients where to go abroad as in for example going to Mayo Clinic, etc.) Careful on the language issue. Sometimes a great surgeon doesn’t speak English and sometimes an English speaking doctor isn’t a good surgeon. India has done a good job in branding themselves. “India is the Wal-Mart of medical tourism.” Some buzz words to know: Clusters, telemedicine, DaVinci Surgical Systems, domestic medical tourism, and retirement tourism. There are lots of exciting things happening in this new arena of medical tourism and even newer arena of spas and medical tourism.
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