Medical Tourism – Most Popular Destinations
By Donatas Svetaka
Medical tourism has been growing for more than a decade. It began with people choosing
cosmetic surgery abroad in search for better prices and anonymity. Since then, it has moved
inevitably into the non-cosmetic area. Patients from various regions of the world now travel for
orthopedic and heart surgery, dentistry, hernias, cataracts and almost any kind of elective
One of the most popular destinations is India. What makes India an attractive medical tourist
destination is low-cost treatment. It is estimated that treatment costs in India start at around a
tenth of the price of analogous procedures in the United States or Britain. Many of the doctors
were educated or practiced in the West, so their expertise is equally impeccable. In many
countries, people have to wait a long period of time to undergo a surgery, so these countries
have developed links with India for fast treatments for their nationals. The Indian government
has created incentives such as a fast-track visa for foreign patients. However, India has
competitors. Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore – all have government-backed medical tourism
Thailand has long been a big draw for medical tourists. More and more hospitals are accredited
by JCAHO (the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health care Organizations), and the
number of medical tourists is increasing. Over one million every year go there for medical
procedures ranging from cosmetic surgery to heart treatment.
The Philippines also boast some of the best hospitals offering best expertise, highest level
facilities, and warm hospitality. There are also some of the world’s best spa resorts and tour
destinations in the region.
Singapore, another medical hub, is planned to be developed into a leading health care
destination in Asia. Although there are no official figures yet, industry experts are guessing that
more than 400,000 foreigners visited Singapore for medical care last year, maintaining a steady
growth of an average of 20 percent over the past few years.
Latin American countries offer hospital-and-tourism packages to the US residents. In Central
America, nations are marketing their plastic surgery, dentistry and certain surgical procedures,
along with a “getaway” vacation.
Then there are Eastern European countries, which offer the lowest prices in Europe. For
instance, cataract removal in Poland or Lithuania would cost £650, as compared to £2,350 in
Clinics are also popping up in transit zones: there is one at Munich international airport; Dubai is
planning to open the Dubai Health care City by the end of the decade.
South Africa, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey – all have entered the lucrative market or are trying to do
so, and the list of countries is expanding every year.