5 Emerging Trends In The Medical Tourism Industry

Medical Tourism Trends
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  • 12 Dec, 2016

As the medical tourism industry booms, it’s not a shock that the trends in medical tourism are constantly changing. India is one of the countries that is emerging as a top choice for medical tourists seeking more affordable, oftentimes life-saving treatments. These are treatments they simply can’t afford in their home countries. Other people choose to become medical tourists to places such as India for procedures that insurances in Western countries refuse to cover. Some of these procedures include plastic or cosmetic procedures to improve their physical looks as well as their mental perception of themselves. Emerging trends in medical tourism, and trends in medical tourism in India are quite an interesting topic to research, and even more interesting to understand as more and more medical tourists flock to developing countries to have their medical needs met.

Medical tourism has turned into a $5.5 billion market annually in India as of 2015. The industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds and is continuing to surpass expectations set for sales each year. By 2020 it is estimated that India will be taking in $7-8 billion annually from medical tourists procedures performed there each year. The way medical tourism is thriving in India, many believe those numbers will be reached sooner!

1. Diversification Of Procedures:

The term “healthcare” has taken on a more broad meaning than ever before as the medical tourism industry booms. In the words of medical tourism, “healthcare” is considered any procedure that someone travels abroad to receive. These procedures come in many different forms. Some of the ones are cosmetic/plastic surgeries, and others are lifesaving procedures such as organ transplants, cardiac surgeries, or bariatric operations. People travel to places like India to receive cosmetic surgeries such as breast augmentations, rhinoplasty, and bariatric procedures.

As medical tourism industries grow the popularity of constantly in-demand procedures grows as well. There are more and more high-revenue “health cities” have popped up all around the world as from Chennai to Sao Paolo. These cities also provide some hospitality and caring people to help you recover as well. India, which is one of the leading medical tourist countries in South East Asia estimates about 75-80% of its healthcare revenue is currently coming from investments in the private sectors. Cities around Asia have also become the leaders in medical tourism industry, courtesy of their high level of hospitality standards, and also their low priced treatments that make healthcare more affordable in most of Asia as compared to the rest of the Western world.

These countries are able to help meet the needs of an increasing number of tourists due to improved infrastructure and newer, more modern Westernized healthcare facilities that help provide alternate treatment to those who cannot afford treatments in the West. New countries are continuing to crop up in the world of medical tourist destinations as developing countries advance to provide rivaling technologies to those of the West at only a fraction of the cost.

Many medical tourists are people aged between 45-70, and are from places where healthcare costs have exploded in recent years. This includes people from Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. More knowledgable healthcare professionals abroad are helping treat Westerners traveling to developing countries to seek affordable treatment.

The main thing controlling the growth of the Asian (and worldwide) market is the devaluing of the American dollar. Political unrest ebbs and flows the tourism into these countries, but despite the changing value of the dollar Asia seems to be carving out a niche as a leading medical tourists destination, and India has well carved out its place among the leaders in that Asian medical tourism movement.

Most Common Medical Procedures:

Current trends in medical tourism see people from many Western traveling abroad as medical tourists to seek similar procedures to what they would naturally seek in their own home country. As of 2014 the most common procedures people cited that they traveled for were a host of complex, specialized procedures like breast augmentations, bariatric surgeries, dermabrasion, and angioplasty surgeries. Some people still travel to receive other life-saving treatments with some of the most popular being alternative cancer treatments and cardiovascular surgeries. Others travel as medical tourists to receive more affordable, elective procedures such as cosmetic or plastic surgeries that insurances won’t cover in Western countries.

Common Medical Diagnostic Tests:

Disease preventions are another reason people often choose to become medical tourists. One very common test people travel abroad for is related to fertility and sterility. The US and Western insurance companies rarely cover things like IVF treatments. One treatment in the US can cost $12,000 or more, and man IVF treatments are often needed to make them successful.

In other cases, most Western insurance companies do not cover cosmetic procedures. People often end up being medical tourists seeking anything from breast augmentations to liposuctions. Others seek things like removal of excess skin. Many travel also seeking other elective treatments like LASIK eye surgeries or dental procedures that are not covered under many Western country insurance plans, yet are exceptionally expensive in some Western countries. People generally pay about 30% of what they would in the Western world traveling abroad for a similar procedure.

Weight loss surgery also draws many medical tourists as nearly 1/3 of all Americans are now obese, and about 10% of insurance plans cover weight loss surgeries such as lap bands or bariatric surgeries. People can go to other countries and get the treatment for a fraction of the cost of what it would be here in the US. This can often save lives.

Some people become medical tourists also by seeking alternative treatment not approved in Western countries. Oftentimes treating conditions such as asthma or chronic pain is possible with these kinds of treatments that 92% of insurance companies in the Western world do not cover.

Finally, some people travel to other countries to receive post natal care or receive things like hearing aids or cochlear implants at a much more affordable cost to them. Medical devices are often cheaper in other countries, and can help the person save a lot of money even after paying for travel expenses.

2. Growing Contributions From the Private Sector:

Private sector health care is causing “health cities” such as Chennai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Sao Paolo to boom around the globe. These hospitals offer many services under one roof and provide a hospitable atmosphere to attract patients from various Western countries. India is the leader of these medical tourist countries in Southeast Asia as they he about 75-80% of the private sector businesses and investments within all of Asia in their borders.

3. Growing Number Of Participating Countries:

More and more countries in Asia are investing in the medical tourism industry. India is currently the leader in medical tourism in Asia. Improved infrastructure and more well-trained doctors are pushing this change along with rising healthcare costs in the West forcing people to seek treatments elsewhere. Other countries all over the world are also popping up as medical tourist destinations as well.

Current trends in medical tourism are seeing countries such as Egypt and South Africa are also leading the way with international tourism. The Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador are becoming premiere locations for international medical tourists as more affordable prices pop up around the world.

4. Demographic Shift In Developed Countries:

Trends in the medical tourism industry have seen healthcare costs running rampant in many Western nations, and this is leaving people to go to developing countries like Thailand, India, Singapore, or Costa Rica to seek treatment. Most medical tourists hail from places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, or the UK.
More countries are modernizing medicine at more reasonable costs than the Western countries, and therefore people are left flocking there for treatments. This brings excellent revenue to the countries that are adopting more diversified medical practices that Western tourists are able to benefit from. Travelers also gain to save $1000s even after traveling half way around the world as healthcare is that much more reasonably priced around the rest of the world than it is in the Western world.

5. Baby Boomer Trends:

The latest movement in medical tourists are people that are being called the “baby boom” of medical tourism. This movement is well underway. Hopeful parents are traveling abroad to get IVF treatments and commercial surrogacy in places like Russia or Ukraine. These are procedures most Western countries ban or refuse to perform.

The China Effect: The Chinese are already the single-largest group of prospective parents traveling abroad that use IVF services to have more children. The most popular destinations for the Chinese are the US and Canada. As China recently relaxes its single-child policy, we can expect this trend to continue to grow into the future. We can also expect a new IVF movement of three-person embryos to be pioneered in the US and UK in the coming years. This will occur as people continue to search for new “hot spots” to receive more reproductive choices.


As “healthcare” becomes an increasingly diversified concept, more and more diversified medical practices are popping up all around the world driving medical tourism to new heights. The most common medical procedures and common medical diagnostic tests have become almost unaffordable in the West are moving to developing countries where people can afford proper treatment with or without insurance.

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