It's not surprising to see how globalization has affected various environmental or economic issues worldwide, but it's exciting to see how globalization is changing the way healthcare is delivered.
Being able to communicate across the world has changed our views on healthcare as we become more knowledgeable about the wide variety of options of treatments and costs available in other countries. The Patients Beyond Borders estimates that the medical tourism market will grow at a rate of 15-25% worldwide. What's more interesting is that people traditionally used to travel from underdeveloped countries to developed countries because some medical treatments were unavailable. Now, people are choosing to travel from developed countries to developing countries for cost savings. There are other factors, of course, when patients choose their medical destinations. Factors such as well-established healthcare infrastructure for tourists and availability of internationally trained doctors are often considered as well. Patients travel around the world for a variety of reasons, from cosmetic surgery, cardiovascular surgery, to dental treatment, with most popular destinations being Costa Rica, Mexico, South Korea, and Thailand.
I remember when I was visiting my family in South Korea, I decided to get my lasik eye surgery and wisdom teeth extraction done while I was there because it was much cheaper than back home in Canada. My experience with health care in Korea was pleasant with both my surgeries being successfully completed. A lot of my American friends in Korea were also interested in getting their surgeries done in Korea and asked about my experience and cost savings. When I called the hospitals to ask if they accept foreigners, I was surprised to find out that they have English speaking doctors for foreigners.
Medical tourism may become a growing business for developing countries, while providing alternatives for patients looking for cost savings for medical procedures. It seems like a win-win situation for both developing countries and individuals who want healthcare at a lower price. However, there are controversies with medical tourism and its ultimate effect on the healthcare system. In fact, the Ontario health organizations proposed that they want the Ontario government to put a ban on medical tourism, arising from the concern that health care should not become a business venture and that international patients will direct resources away from local patients. That leaves us with the question whether medical tourism is really a win-win for everyone, including local patients, and how the governments should react and prepare for the impact of rapidly growing medical tourism on healthcare going forward.