Medical tourism (also called medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare) is a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care.
It also refers pejoratively to the practice of healthcare providers travelling internationally to deliver healthcare.
Services typically sought by travelers include elective procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries such as joint replacement (knee/hip), cardiac surgery, dental surgery, and cosmetic surgeries. However, virtually every type of health care, including psychiatry, alternative treatments, convalescent care and even burial services are available.
As a practical matter, providers and customers commonly use informal channels of communication-connection-contract, and in such cases this tends to mean less regulatory or legal oversight to assure quality and less formal recourse to reimbursement or redress, if needed.
Over 50 countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry. However, accreditation and other measures of quality vary widely across the globe, and there are risks and ethical issues that make this method of accessing medical care controversial. Also, some destinations may become hazardous or even dangerous for medical tourists to contemplate.
In the context of global health, "medical tourism" is a pejorative because during such trips health care providers often practice outside of their areas of expertise or hold different (i.e., lower) standards of care.
Greater numbers than ever before of student volunteers, health professions trainees, and researchers from resource-rich countries are working temporarily and anticipating future work in resource-starved areas. This emphasizes the importance of understanding this other definition.
The typical process is as follows: the person seeking medical treatment
abroad contacts a medical tourism provider.
The provider usually
requires the patient to provide a medical report, including the nature
of ailment, local doctor’s opinion, medical history, and diagnosis, and
may request additional information.
Certified medical doctors or
consultants then advise on the medical treatment. The approximate
expenditure, choice of hospitals and tourist destinations, and duration
of stay, etc., is discussed.
After signing consent bonds and agreements,
the patient is given recommendation letters for a medical visa, to be
procured from the concerned embassy.
The patient travels to the
destination country, where the medical tourism provider assigns a case
executive, who takes care of the patient's accommodation, treatment and
any other form of care.
Once the treatment is done, the patient can
remain in the tourist destination or return home.
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