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The concept of “medical tourism” in its most fundamental form dates back thousands of years to Greek pilgrims traveling the Mediterranean. Additionally it is noted that in the eighteenth century many of the English visited spas throughout their country because they were places with supposedly health-giving mineral waters. Today over 50 countries recognize medical tourism as an industry and there are some projections estimating the global size of this industry will approach 100B USD in the next few years.
So who is today’s candidate for a medical tourism affiliated procedure and where do they come from? Patients typically come from what are considered First World Countries such as England, Canada, Japan, Middle East and the US. Typically these patients are either lacking coverage for a particular procedure, lack medical insurance, have a rider due to a pre-existing condition, are underinsured, have a high deductable where it is actually cheaper to consider a foreign option or may be looking for a less expensive cosmetic option.
While roughly fifty countries may recognize medical tourism as an industry; we at GME target our focus where we can use US trained, US Board Certified physicians wherever possible or their international equivalent. In addition, GME utilizes hospitals that have the highest standard for accreditation called JCI (Joint Commission International). As a result, our current countries of choice for major surgeries, dental surgeries and plastic surgeries are India, Costa Rica and yes, the United States. We do this because the patient’s outcomes, safety, comfort and peace of mind are of paramount concern. This is why GME also makes available to foreign travelers a Care Giver to facilitate their visit and provide for their needs.
From a cost perspective; when exploring the international option and comparing against internet provided, published US procedural costs GME can provide a savings ranging 20-60% over many of the same procedures performed in the US. And by providing a JCI accredited facility and a highly credentialed surgeon the only differences are cost and location. But how does this affect the US healthcare system from an economic perspective? Well currently the US holds the leading share of market in this industry with a reported share of 40% (India for example has a 3% share of this market). From my standpoint Medical Tourism is benefiting the US economy with:
1. In-bound, cash paying patients that tend to pay at rates above current reimbursable levels
2. Allowing many US citizens a medical option not currently presented in our system
3. Potentially providing a counterbalance to escalating healthcare costs in the US.
Think back just a few decades ago when the Japanese began importing high quality, lower priced vehicles into the US market. What were the affects of those products on the US auto industry? It caused the US auto manufacturers to “up their game” on a number of levels: the quality of the product, the service provided to the consumer, the price of the product and the backing of the product. So in the end our automotive industry adapted, survived and is prospering because we now make a world class car, have parts manufactured abroad and sell our cars globally. To that end the Medical Tourism industry can bring about a much needed rationalizing in the cost of our healthcare to the average US citizen. This can be accomplished through the introduction of a reimbursable foreign option.