Medical Tourism: Pathway to Outsourcing Physician Jobs

Health_Healthcare.jpgThere is this booming industry in medicine that more and more people are becoming aware of. It’s called Medical Tourism. It doesn’t mean that you go around the world touring medical sites. It’s actually the concept of people traveling to different countries to have medical procedures done. Perhaps they are seeking a special physician that can do a procedure. Perhaps they are seeking a new procedure that is not yet approved in the U.S. Perhaps the procedure they want is less expensive elsewhere. Sometimes it is just that patients want a vacation in combination with their medical procedure so they will go to a resort island to have the procedure done and get their rehabilitation in a relaxing environment.

Medical TourismThere is a flip-side of this concept of Medical Tourism. The common perception is of Americans traveling elsewhere for procedures. However, in foreign countries, either foreigners or expatriates may seek care from physicians trained in other countries. For example, many expatriates in China do not trust the medical system there. They want their surgery done by a U.S. or European trained specialist. Thus, the market for Medical Tourism is booming.

There are many ethical dilemmas that may arise from this industry. One is the simple fact that complications may occur and if you have your procedure done in India and then have complications in the U.S. there may be problems dealing with it. Continuity of care is essential for good patient care in the U.S. An obvious issue may be if something happens during the procedure. Perhaps the patient does not receive appropriate pre-operative work-up and then has a sentinel event in the procedure. Malpractice claims are difficult to prosecute across borders and not every country has similar legal systems in place.

One key issue that has yet to come to the forefront is the potential outsourcing of physician jobs to other countries. As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, even some of our citizens cannot afford to pay for procedures and will go elsewhere. Like any industry, we must remain competitive in order to stay in business.

I haven’t met many patients that have actually taken the leap to get their procedures done in other countries. I have met patients who traveled to beach destinations for a mix of relaxation and treatment.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. It is just another consequence of the global economy and how medicine will be changing.

  • As author of “Patients Beyond Borders,” I am glad to see physicians such as you beginning to dispassionately address professional challenges vis a vis the rising globalization of healthcare.

    You are correct to focus upon important issues such as continuity of care, quality assurance, et al. As medical travel matures, so will the medical and administrative practices that provide increased safety and service to patients worldwide. Already more than 2 million patients–including 180,000 Americans–cross borders annually for medical care. Patients and practitioners alike require quality, unbiased information so as to reach informed decisions.

    We hope to see more posts on this important topic.

  • tinasilvee

    Outsourcing has so many benefits:

    • Cost Savings
    • Time Zone Benefits
    • Quick Turn Around Time
    • Standardizing Business Processes
    • and many more….
  • Yes, cost savings is a big driver, but a shift is beginning where North Americans are looking to medical tourism as a way to get access to procedures they can’t get at home–either because the procedure has been newly approved in the U.S. (like hip resurfacing)or because the waiting lists are too long (as in Canada, or waiting for a liver transplant in the U.S.). They’re finding the quality of care and the international facilities (when carefully selected) to be on par or in many cases better than at home.
    Here’s an interesting story of cost savings from a recent patient:
    A patient from Washington checked out Thailand for a procedure called Cardiac RF ablation to re-set the electrical pathways in his heart. He was quoted $70,000 in the U.S., and a range from $12,000 to $18,000 in Thailand. Through
    he was able to get the procedure done at Apollo Hospital in Delhi India for $3300. Thailand was certainly a better price than the U.S., for sure, but India was better. The patient gives his care in India five stars.

  • The cost advantages that these overseas countries offer topped with their high quality of health care services are going to keep the medical tourism industry flourishing.

    An award-winning medical tourism company, at Healthbase we have have assisted several patients find affordable healthcare for a fraction of the cost for similar care in the US. The areas in which Americans and Canadians are seeking care overseas range from being as simple as quick dental fix-ups and as complicated as multiple heart bypasses.

    Aftercare is definitely an important issue in case of overseas surgery and a patient planning a medical trip abroad must always keep his local doctor informed about his decision of going overseas for surgery and make preparations for follow-up care at home before leaving for his foreign medical care destination.

  • You’re welcome to visit MedRetreat, a U.S. owned and operated medical tourism service agency, at for a more thorough education about medical tourism. MedRetreat was developed to help protect the American consumer when traveling abroad to receive medical procedures.

  • The medical tourist usually chooses to have the surgery or procedure done overseas to:

    a. save on medical costs;

    b. avoid long wait for medical services in their home country;

    c. get better quality medical care or diagnostic services ;

    d. even protect their privacy.

    For some medical tourists, combining a vacation with the medical procedure is the attraction. For most, though, vacationing and leisure tourism is secondary.

  • utopianwd

    Low prices, high quality and advanced technology are definitely a drawing card for Americans to look abroad for medical surgery and procedures that are extremely over-priced here int he US.

  • As long as the US does not reform her health care system completely, it seems Medical tourism will always have the american public to go too.


Dr. JC is a medical doctor who has a passion for health promotion and education.

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