The medical tourism industry stakeholders historically defined medical tourism as the process of traveling outside one’s local area of residence for the purpose of receiving medical services.
This excluded emergent care and unplanned care for illness sought by travelers as well as wellness complementary to medical services. For this latter point, consider acupuncture services in advance of IVF treatments or other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Due to increasing activities across the domestic and international healthcare industries as well as the manner in which the purchase of services is trending, the movement of all patients for all reasons certainly falls under medical travel. You will also hear people referring to destination health, health excellence, excellence medicine, medical value travel and other terms in relationship to people traveling for healthcare services. The basic difference between many of these terms has been “elective” or “non-elective” services.
However, the line between these terms is diminishing due in most part to the demand, drivers and the payer/consumer being similar as well as the similarity in infrastructure and services needed to serve.
In recent years, we see the increase in movement of healthcare organizations to “internationalize” their brand or services for an expanded consumer base, often crossing borders and cultural competencies.
The Medical Tourism Association (MTA) recognizes the management of these services as “International Patient Services,” irrespective of whether a patient travels abroad. The appropriateness of services, cultural competency of delivery and expectations of the consumers are the same, as is the consumer’s willingness to recommend the provider to another. This leaves little to no difference between a medical travel and medical tourism program.
Therefore, medial tourism (MT) or medical travel can be measured by the economic impact appropriately documented to include each consumer and payer category to meet the realities of these individual markets around the world. The combination of the spending at a health center, combined with wellness complementary to health and tourism/travel, plus the hospitality, travel and per diem spending associated with this trip, is in fact the true economic impact of the industry.