Medical tourism occurs when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment. This treatment may span the full range of medical services, but most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery, and fertility treatment. There has been a shift towards patients from richer, more developed nations travelling to less developed countries to access health services, largely driven by the low-cost treatments available in the latter and helped by cheap flights and internet sources of information. But what about medical tourism implications?
A growing sector lacking of adequate research evidence on his role and impact
Despite high-profile media interest and coverage, there is a lack of hard research evidence on the role and impact of medical tourism for OECD countries. Whilst there is an increasing amount written on the subject of medical tourism, such material is hardly ever evidence-based. Medical tourism introduces a range of attendant risks and opportunities for patients. OECD published a review Medical Tourism: Treatments, Markets and Health System Implications: A scoping review that identifies the key emerging policy issues relating to the rise of “medical tourism”.
The review details what is currently known about the flow of medical tourists between countries and discusses the interaction of the demand for, and supply of, medical tourism services. It highlights the different organisations and groups involved in the industry, including the range of intermediaries and ancillary services that have grown up to service the industry. Treatment processes (including consideration of quality, safety and risk) and system-level implications for countries of origin and destination (financial issues; equity; and the impact on providers and professionals of medical tourism) are highlighted. The review examines harm, liability and redress in medical tourism services with a particular focus on the legal, ethical and quality-of-care considerations.
Improving in research evidence about medical tourism implications are needed
In light of this, the review outlines key health policy considerations, and draws attention to significant gaps in the research evidence. The central conclusion from this review is that there is a lack of systematic data concerning health services trade, both overall and at a disaggregated level in terms of individual modes of delivery, and of specific countries. This is both in terms of the trade itself, as well as its implications. Mechanisms are needed that help us track the balance of trade around medical tourism on a regular basis. The evidence base is scant to enable us to assess who benefits and who loses out at the level of system, programme, organisation and treatment.
Read the full review here: https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/48723982.pdf