Medical Tourism: Why people get treatment abroad - GO.CARE Blog

What Is Medical Tourism?

Author: Nhi Lê
Review Date: August 5, 2018 | Last Modified: October 22, 2019
What Is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism has become a global phenomenon lately, with a steady increase in the number of medical tourists each year. This growth in popularity has attracted the attention of researchers, policy makers, and the media as well.

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism (also called medical travel/ health tourism) refers to the activity of going abroad for medical treatment. Originally, it referred to the travel of patients from developing countries to more developed ones in search of better treatments. However, the term now also alludes to those from developed nations that decide to have medical treatment at developing countries.

This type of traveling has become more and more popular these days, with various countries emerging as hotspots for medical tourists. People fly to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery, to India for a heart transplant, and to Hungary for tooth replacement, etc. The prevalence of medical travel leads to one question: “Why do people go abroad for medical treatment?”

In order to have a better understanding of this phenomenon, let’s have a look at the story of Bob.

The Story of Bob

Problem arose

Bob was a 58-years-old man who worked as a factory worker in Minneapolis. His job did not provide him with a great enough fortune to live a fancy luxury life. Nevertheless, Bob loved what he did, and as long as the salary was able to cover the bills, he would be completely OK with it.

Everything was perfectly fine, until a day when he found himself in the emergency room due to some chest pains. The doctor later announced that he had atherosclerosis and needed to undergo a coronary bypass operation as soon as possible. As Bob was just a contract worker, he had no health insurance, which left him with only two options. He could deplete all his life saving by taking a loan out for 150,000USD to perform the surgery, or he could do nothing and hope for the best.

A new way abroad

Apparently, none of these choices sounded very appealing to him. Hence, Bob was taking his time weighing the two, until one day when he went online and chanced upon a website called Planet Hospitals. This was a platform that connected people to private sector medical care facilities in the developing world. After wandering around the website for a while, Bob then examined the option of going to India after seeing a 10,000 USD price tag. He ended up getting the Sun, Sand, and Surgery package. With this package, he received the airfare, as well as a week at a resort overlooking the beach – all for just 10,000 USD. By taking the package, Bob became the popularly termed medical tourist who crossed borders to obtain healthcare in a country aside from their own.

Medical Tourism – A Huge Step of the Healthcare Industry

Medical Tourism Popularity

An economical solution

Getting back to Bob, he is just one of the 56 million Americans under age 65 who have trouble paying medical bills, according to data analyzed by Nerd Wallet Health with sources from the U.S. Census, Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Court System, and the Commonwealth Fund.

Ever since the mid 20th century, healthcare costs have exploded in various developed countries. A procedure such as heart bypass can cost more than 100,000USD in the US. Statistics from MTA Patient Surveys also indicate that 64% of patients that traveled abroad for healthcare did not have health insurance. This shows that one major reason for people to go on a medical trip is to seek high quality, yet affordable healthcare. Instead of spending 100,000 USD for a heart bypass surgery in the US, patients can now perform that same procedure for less than $4,000 USD in Mexico.

Access to special medical services

There are other reasons for the thriving of the medical tourism industry these days. For example, people from countries with nationalized healthcare plans sometimes face a rather long waitlist to obtain medical services. In these cases, patients may resort to traveling abroad to get treatment on time.

On the other hand, certain treatments are not available in certain countries. For example, stem cell therapy is a pretty new procedure, with only a limited number of hospitals capable of offering this service. In addition, due to certain legal and ethical issues, some governments forbid the injections of stem cells. Therefore, those who cannot find such treatment in their home country has no choice, but to go abroad.

Last but not least, some procedures such as cosmetic surgeries are not covered by mainstream medical insurance providers. In this case, traveling to another country is a nice alternative. According to the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) Patient Survey, 33% of patients who travel abroad report the purpose of their trip is for cosmetic surgery.

Internationally accredited hospitals & clinics

Countries such as Costa Rica, India, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand… have all branded themselves as leading medical tourism destinations. Millions of medical tourists travel to these countries every year due to their internationally-trained medical staffs, state-of-the-art medical technology, and excellent infrastructure.

The hospitals & clinics that serve foreign patients usually have international certifications such as JCI, JACHO, and ISO. Therefore, people can expect to be offered with luxurious accommodation and world-class services there.

Learn more about JCI accreditation here: The Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation

Combining traditional & medical tourism

It goes without saying that a medical trip presents people with the opportunity to visit other countries. During their trip abroad, patients can enjoy relaxing days at a resort setting, go shopping for native crafts, and stop by several tourist attractions.

Illustration Video


The term medical tourism itself might sound a little bit exotic to some people. However, it is just a rapidly growing phenomenon. Its current popularity is the result of an increasingly empowered patient base searching for quality, affordability, availability, and accessibility in healthcare. That’s the reason why GO.CARE – a leading medical tourism company in Asa – is established: To connect patients with the best healthcare providers at the most affordable price.

GO.CARE - Healthcare Made Simple


Visit GO.CARE’s website to learn more about the best hospitals & clinics in Asia, along with the treatments they provide.

Need further information? Send us a request now to get a completely free consultation.

GO.CARE does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.

1. Medical tourism, your health can now be outsourced: Krystal Rampalli at TEDxUMN Accessed July 29, 2018

2. Facts & Statistics Accessed July 29, 2018

3. Medical Tourism Statistics & Facts Accessed July 29, 2018

4. What is medical tourism?  Accessed July 29, 2018

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