Medical tourism – the practice of travelling to another country for medical treatment – is a huge global industry, although not one that is widely promoted or talked about in the UK.
However, despite this, medical travel does seem to be on the up – with data collected by the Office for National Statistics suggesting that 100,000 Britons interviewed at airports nationwide in 2015 were going abroad for medical reasons. So, is it something more of us should be considering? We caught up with Ugur Samut, CEO and co-founder at MEDIGO, the leading online booking platform for safe medical travel, in order to get a better understanding.
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1. People combine treatment with a holiday
Seeking medical treatment abroad can double as an opportunity to visit a country you haven’t been to before, and provides a relaxing environment in which you can focus on your recovery away from the stresses and strains of day-to-day life at home.
“Currently, Thailand is the most popular destination to combine a holiday with various elective (non-essential) treatments because of its high-quality care, as well as its attractiveness as a holiday destination. Another benefit of combining treatment with a holiday is the reduced cost.”
2. Different countries specialise in different medical fields
Some countries are renowned for their expertise in particular medical specialties. For example, South Korea is one of the most popular places for plastic surgery, while Turkey is favoured for eye care. Different nations are therefore are likely to have further, more advanced research into – and experience performing – certain procedures.
3. Dental implants are the most popular treatment for medical tourists
As more and more people strive to achieve the perfect Hollywood smile, it’s no surprise that the most popular procedure for medical tourists is dental implants.
“The costly nature of dental implants means demand for this particular procedure is primarily driven by people from the US, Western Europe, and Australia who are seeking more affordable options. In Hungary, for instance, a standard implant costs £800 – compared to £2,700 in the UK.”
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4. It’s not just for the wealthy
Despite what many people think, medical tourism is not something that is solely for the rich. It is possible to find a procedure at a price point that suits you without compromising on the quality of care.
“The reason, for example, that Hungary is considerably cheaper than a lot of countries for dentistry is because their government excludes it from VAT to encourage tourism to the country. So, you can rest assured that even if you’re on a budget, you can still expect to receive a high a standard of treatment as you would in a more expensive clinic elsewhere.”
According to MEDIGO, patients who seek affordable healthcare destinations are able to find cost savings of 15% to 75% after all expenses (travel, food, accommodations, and treatment) have been paid.
5. Travelling for treatment can reduce waiting time
It might sound silly, but travelling abroad for treatment can sometimes be quicker than waiting at home – especially in the UK, where the NHS is overwhelmed with patient demand. For example, a report from The Patient’s Association found that, in 2015, the average wait time for a tonsillectomy was 108.4 days.
“Choosing to seek treatment elsewhere can significantly lower this wait time – theoretically there is no waiting time. The only delay you are likely to encounter is the logistics of arranging the treatment, travel, and accommodation.”
Of course, medical travel isn’t appropriate for everyone and it requires extensive research. If you are considering seeking treatment outside of the UK, discuss your plans with your GP or dentist, who can advise on the best options for you.