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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.

With a 40% share the US is the market leader when it comes to the growing medical tourism industry. But there is no reason India can’t become a major player despite its current 3% share of the nearly $100B global industry. India may be best positioned to have a voice in where patients choose to have outstanding medical services because they have the latest in technologies; experienced, well trained physicians with the world class Fortis Hospital System. Today the majority of patients traveling to India for medical reasons actually come for cardiac treatment, cancer treatment, knee replacement and other serious ailments. So the perception that perhaps India is unqualified for treating patients in need of major surgical procedures is diminishing. Cost is, of course must be a major consideration when a patient reviews their medical options globally. For example according to the BusinessWorld report, a heart bypass surgery costs in US dollars $144,000 in the United States, $25,000 in Costa Rice, $24,000 in Thailand, $20,000 in Mexico, $13,500 in Singapore, and $8,500 in India. The quality of care is excellent, there is less waiting time and services are personalized.
Medical tourism is a growing sector in the India economy. With a projected annual growth rate of 30% India’s medical tourism sector is expected go as high as $2 billion a year by 2012. As medical treatment costs in the more developed country’s swell out of proportion, with the United States leading the way, more and more Westerners are finding the prospect of international travel for medical care increasingly appealing. An estimated 150,000 people travel to India each year for “value health care”.
So now with India proving itself as a credible provider of value healthcare (not “cheap health care”), with the western population ageing, and health care becoming more difficult to obtain from a price perspective I expect more people to come from the U.S and other world powers.

Baby Boomers are fueling a boom in knee and hip surgeries. Do you need a new knee or do you know someone that does? According to www.kneereplacementabroad.com the average price in the US for a total knee replacement is $29000-32,000 USD. Another website www.livestrong.com  states that a US conducted total knee replacement can cost as much as $35,000 USD. For surgeries abroad Global Medical Excellence contracts with US trained, US Board Certified surgeons in India and JCI Accredited hospitals (The Fortis Group) to handle all India based surgical procedures. In the case of a knee replacement the cost through GME is a mere $7,980 and that includes the standard post-op rehabilitation. So what is the difference? Just the location in my opinion.

Last year over 1mm US citizens went abroad for medical care and globally the concept of medical tourism is approaching $1B USD. In fact, over fifty countries have identified medical tourism as a national industry. One of the target countries in this hemisphere for healthcare abroad is Costa Rica. According to the United Nations living in Costa Rica can be quite healthy. Costa Rica is in first place in Latin America for the development of curative and preventative diseases. This is a ranking that places it with Canada and the United States in the top 20 in the world. Costa Rica, this small topical paradise, surpasses the United States in both infant mortality and life expectancy.

So if you are even in the unfortunate situation where you are unable to cover your deductable for a medical procedure or you are denied coverage for a procedure then consider medical tourism and Global Medical Excellence. Do what over 1MM American’s do each year and seek out the international option.

Cosmetic surgery has held its own in a down economy. Estimates show that the trend in the number of procedures in 2010 is not that far below numbers in 2009 and 2008. What has changed is that patients are paying for less invasive procedures like Botox™ and fillers versus tummy tucks or facelifts. These procedures are less expensive and the time away from work is less.

Cosmetic Surgical Procedures

The major invasive procedures are not quite as popular as they were a few years ago. Breast augmentation, Rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty still top the list, but the numbers of procedures perform have seen a decline in 2009 and 2010.Tummy Tucks and Liposuction round out the list of the top five invasive cosmetic surgery procedures.

Cosmetic Trends in 2010

Defying the down economy, plastic surgery procedures increased nearly 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 with more than 9.3 million surgical and non-surgical procedures logged in 2010, for a market cost of roughly $11 billion (ASAPS statistics).  Patients between the ages of 35 and 50 accounted for 44 percent of the total, which was the majority age group.

As CEO of Global Medical Excellence, a medical tourism company specializing in cosmetic, dental and major surgeries: It was surprising to see such a spike in services despite the current economic woes.  In addiiton, of what appears to be an expansion in the patient demographic. Why? Because according to the ASAPS study, 19 percent of the patients belong to an ethnic minority. Traditional consumer direct marketing has been targeted towards the white female. Today one can include both sexes and various ethnicities as their target audience

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