MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yan Alicia Hong, Ph.D.
Dept of Health Promotion & Community Health Sciences
School of Public Health
Texas A&M Health Science Center
College Station, TX, 77843
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study and discussion? What are the main findings?
Dr. Hong: Medical tourism has grown rapidly in the past decade, as Internet has greatly facilitated information sharing. A 2013 online survey from US reported that 27% of patients had engaged in some form of medical tourism. The global market of medical tourism is estimated at $439 billion. Traditionally, medical tourists travel from high-income countries to middle- and low-income countries to seek comparable or identical care at a lower price. But in recent years, more and more patients from middle- and low-income countries travel to the high-income countries for better diagnostic capabilities, state-of-the-art medical technologies, and advanced treatment options that may not be available in their home countries. I wrote up this article in response to the opening of a Chinese-American Physicians E-Hospital, a new online service to facilitate Chinese patients seeking medical care in U.S..
MedicalResearch.com: What is medical tourism? What types of patients travel for medical services and to what venues? What are the risks and benefits?
Dr. Hong: Medical tourism is defined as traveling to a foreign country to seek medical care. Traditionally, medical tourists travel from high-income countries to middle- and low-income countries to seek comparable or identical care at a lower price. Countries such as India, Mexico, Korea, and Thailand have long been prominent destinations for Western medical tourists. With a growing wealthy class in the middle-income countries and rapid penetration of the Internet, the “one-way flow” of medical tourists has been gradually replaced with “two-way exchange.” More and more patients from middle- and low-income countries travel to the high-income countries for better diagnostic capabilities, state-of-the-art medical technologies, and advanced treatment options that may not be available in their home countries. The prominent hospitals like the Mayo clinic, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Cleveland Clinic are among the most sought-after clinics and hospitals in the US.
The benefits for medical tourists traveling from high-income countries to middle- or low-income countries typically include lower price and less wait time. The benefits for medical tourists traveling from middle- or low-income countries to high-income countries include advanced diagnosis and treatment. The risks for all medical tourists include language and cultural barriers, high expectation but insufficient communication on procedural, postoperative, and legal concerns.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from this report?
Dr. Hong: Medical tourism is a fast growing business and under-studied field, it needs more research and more regulations.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
J Med Internet Res. 2016 May 23;18(5):e115. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5432.
Medical Tourism and Telemedicine: A New Frontier of an Old Business.
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