Medical tourism is harmful to one’s overall health and well-being.
Globally, the demand for healthcare services has been steadily increasing in recent years. Changes in demographic composition are characterized by the aging population’s increased demand for medical services. This, combined with epidemiological changes such as an increase in the incidence of chronic conditions, has increased demand for more and better health services (Simons, Pike, Hulseberg, Prouty, & Swierczewski, 2016). The rapid growth of private sector health provision and medical tourism, which have become one of the most lucrative businesses in some countries, has caused a constant change in the health sector. Some countries’ healthcare costs are always going up, and there are cheaper options in developing countries. This has led to the continued growth of medical tourism.
Medical tourism is defined as a situation in which patients travel to another country with the intention of receiving health care services in the destination country (Pocock & Phua, 2011). The patient’s journey to the country to seek medical care is deliberate, and the patient may not be in an emergency health situation. Medical tourists cross borders in order to receive treatment (Snowdon, Bassi, Scarffe, & Smith, 2015). Medical tourism is motivated by health service issues such as the inability to access health services in their home countries, higher medical service costs, and lengthy wait times for their home systems. Because of the competitive advantage, they have as a result of favorable exchange rates, most hospitals that are medical tourism destinations are primarily found in lower and middle-income countries, and are thus preferred by price-conscious international patients (Pocock & Phua, 2011).
The majority of the medical tourism trade occurs without any regulatory framework, leading to the perception that the trade is primarily motivated by profit and has garnered a lot of criticism because it threatens the equitable delivery of healthcare globally (Johnston, Crooks, Snyder, & Kingsbury, 2010). If the industry is to grow in a way that benefits both the citizens of the destination and departure countries, the negative effects of medical tourism must be well-defined.
Medical tourism’s negative impact on overall health and well-being
There are numerous risks associated with medical tourism. These risks include the patient developing embolisms as a result of long flight times. The risk could be pulmonary embolisms caused by several hours of travel due to prolonged immobility (Johnston et al., 2010). Medical tourism may also cause a disruption in the patient’s care schedule because they may need to return to the countries from which they came before they are fully taken care of. Patients may also suffer from medical malpractice as a result of insufficient laws that govern medical practices in the majority of destination countries (Crooks, Kingsbury, Snyder, & Johnston, 2010). Due to a lack of proper laws, medical tourism has become a risky proposition for medical tourists. However, due to the industry’s steady growth, these risks remain visible.
Medical tourism has a negative impact on the allocation of public resources in destination countries as well. This practice jeopardizes the equitability of the use of public funds. The development of medical tourism industries in destination countries is heavily reliant on government funding and subsidies. Subsidies could take the form of lower tariffs and the importation of high-capacity medical equipment to be used in private hospitals that serve medical tourists. Despite the fact that such private hospitals are supposed to serve all patients, including domestic patients, some of these requirements are not met because the hospitals only serve medical tourists due to the high costs involved. Furthermore, medical tourism has a negative impact on publicly funded health services. As a result of the availability of higher wages and better medical equipment, highly trained physicians are hired by private medical tourist facilities, resulting in some form of public subsidization (Camitz & Liljeros, 2006). As a result, there is inequity in the use of public resources.
Medical tourism is also blamed for inequalities in healthcare provision in destination countries. Because of the higher wages and superior medical equipment used in these facilities, medical tourism is responsible for exacerbating health care through practices such as brain drain (Johnston, Crooks, Snyder, & Kingsbury, 2010). Because the majority of services provided by medical tourism facilities are primarily urban in nature, the practice is also responsible for rural shortages of qualified health workers. If this practice continues, the locals may find themselves unable to afford their healthcare system, as an increase in the number of foreign patients may lead to an increase in the cost of healthcare for the locals (Pocock & Phua, 2011). Medical tourism has resulted in high-tech healthcare investments, driving up the cost of even basic medical services. As a result, a large population is denied access to prohibitively expensive medical services.
Medical tourism may also have a negative impact on the medical tourist’s home country. This could happen if complications arise as a result of a medical procedure performed on a patient in another country (Johnston, Crooks, Snyder, & Kingsbury, 2010). In turn, the cost of care for such a patient may double compared to if the patient had initially obtained medical services in his or her home country. Such medical complications increase the public cost of post-supportive care in cases where the medical tourists’ health system is funded entirely or partially by public funds.
Medical tourism has a negative impact on the patient’s home countries because it reduces equitable access to health care (Snowdon, Bassi, Scarffe, & Smith, 2015). Wealthy patients may opt out of the healthcare systems provided in their home country, reducing the need to change healthcare standards in those countries because the wealthy can meet their healthcare needs elsewhere. This means that the less fortunate will have to deal with poor health care in their home country.
Medical tourism is also a way for patients to obtain cheap and quick medical services when compared to services available locally (Snowdon, Bassi, Scarffe, & Smith, 2015). Traveling abroad, on the other hand, is associated with a number of risks for the patient as well as other long-term costs that may be incurred by the patient’s home health system. Traveling to another country for care services may worsen the patient’s health if an experimental treatment causes other complications or side effects. Even though most countries have high-quality care facilities, overlooking some of these facilities may result in substandard care and complications that may necessitate follow-up care for the patient (Crooks, Kingsbury, Snyder, & Johnston, 2010). Even if the treatments are successful, the majority of medical tourists require follow-up procedures. As a result, complications may arise if follow-up care is not organized in the countries from which the medical tourists come. Difficulties in transferring medical records between the destination and home countries may result in difficulties in providing follow-up care. These patients may also bring infections from home, like the NDM1 superbug, which is often linked to medical tourists (Snyder, Dharamsi, and Crooks, 2011).
To summarise, medical tourism has had a negative impact on healthcare systems as well as the overall health and well-being of individuals in both destination and departure countries. However, a lack of appropriate laws that regulate medical tourism can encourage its spread and have a negative impact on the cost and accessibility of medical services for local populations. When a country rations care, the ability to efficiently ration and distribute health care resources may be jeopardized. This may result in profit-driven healthcare provision while undermining local healthcare needs. Without regulation, the potential benefits of medical tourism may not be realized, leading to the commodification of healthcare services. But it’s hard to make these kinds of rules because we don’t know enough about medical tourism because there aren’t any clear and consistent definitions of it.