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Medical Tourism, A New Way of Vacationing

Update Date: Mar 07, 2013 02:58 PM EST

Going sightseeing and hitting the local tourist attractions may not be the only things on a tourist's list in today's world. Research shows that more and more European tourists are seeking medical care during their vacation stays at other countries. This new trend, coined medical tourism started when the number of people seeking out cheaper medical treatments outside of their own countries increased. Since travelling to another country just for treatment might not be worth it since travel costs will add up, people are turning their trips into an outing.

According to Professor Helmut Wachowiak from the International University of Applied Sciences at Ban Honnef, Germany, the global market for medical tourism has grown to $40-$60 billion. He believes that the number will continue to rise about 20 percent a year.

"The medical tourism market is still very much passing by traditional tourism, though it is increasingly recognized as an opportunity for the travel industry," he stated.

Tourism agencies used the enticing idea of cheaper medical operations in marketing for more tourists, and it has been highly successful. Furthermore, these agencies realize that people not only seek cheaper medical care, they also want faster care and even medical treatments that may not be offered in their own countries due to laws or technologies. Based from this information, the agencies use the Internet to spread awareness of medical deals in nearby nations. Medical companies also refer patients to international clinics and medical centers. For example, the Medical Tourist Company based in Britain recommends roughly 100 patients per year to hospitals in India. Some of the treatments most highly referred involved cardiac surgery, knee and hip surgeries, dental work, and in-vitro fertilization. 

Aside from these convincing factors, many immigrants also like to return to their home country for medical services, which does add more value to the medical tourism market.

"People will want to take the opportunity to seek treatment in places where it might be cheaper and where they have relatives who might be able to look after them. I'm seeing that especially with the younger people from eastern Europe," Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, Robert MacLaren said.

Currently, one of the largest medical tourism countries is Germany, which recorded roughly 77,000 foreign patients totaling 930 million euros in 2010. Helios, a hospital operator assists potential patients with visas, hotels, and tour spots. With this growing trend, it is clear that patients seem to like the idea of medical tourism, but it is always important to remember to focus on the quality of care and not on other factors, like money and tourism. 

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