With travel being so accessible and affordable these days, people are jetting off to international countries for a lot more than just a holiday. Annually thousands of people engage in medical tourism – the act of traveling to another country for a medical procedure. For many, medical tourism offers benefits such as affordable healthcare, advanced medical care, and medical technology not available elsewhere. Without fail, a handful of countries take the top spot for popular destinations for medical tourism. We break down the top five countries for medical tourism and why people choose them.
Thailand is, in many ways, the top destination for medical tourism in the world. In 2017, Thailand saw 2.4 million hospital visits related to medical tourism. One of the key reasons people choose Thailand is its affordability. A procedure in Thailand will often cost 50-70% less than in a Western country. This low-cost allows medical tourists to splurge on top-of-the-line private hospitals and luxurious after-care centers. Additionally, many of the doctors in Thailand have received their medical education in Western countries or Singapore and can speak fluent English.
Previously, the country was known mostly for gender reassignment surgeries and cosmetic procedures. While both of these categories are still prevalent for medical tourists, Thailand has also become well known for burn treatments and restorative dental work.
Thailand provides an excellent spot to have a safe, affordable procedure, where you can spend a few weeks recovering in an elegant spa resort afterwards.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Singapore as the sixth best country in the world for healthcare. This prestigious ranking means you shouldn’t expect any cost-savings when traveling to Singapore for medical tourism. Instead, you’re paying a high cost, but you’re getting some of the best medical treatment in the world.
Most notably, Singapore mandates the study and use of stem cells in medical practice. Known as “stem cell tourism,” individuals from around the world travel to a select few countries that offer this medical treatment. Stem cell medical treatment is also offered in countries such as China, the Caribbean, and Latin America. But, Singapore is one of the most advanced countries to use this method.
While stem cell treatment is still controversial, for patients who feel that they have no other choice, this can feel like the only answer.
Of course, medical tourists don’t only go to Singapore for stem cell treatments. Singapore also specializes in oncology, cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, and hematology.
Turkey has many benefits when it comes to medical tourism. It’s cost-effective and has the most American-accredited hospitals outside of the United States. In fact, an estimated 32% of patients in Turkey are medical tourists.
Turkey has two specialties it’s well-known for: laser eye surgery and hair transplants. The Dunyagoz Hospital in Istanbul is one of Europe’s largest vision centers. It’s a popular destination for laser eye surgery, eye exams, eyeglass prescriptions, and treatments for conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Additionally, Istanbul has over 600 registered clinics that specialize in treatments for hair loss.
If vision or hair loss is a problem for you, Turkey can be a very affordable option without sacrificing quality of service.
India has very much embraced being a destination for medical tourism. In fact, India offers a medical tourist visa that allows patients to stay up to 60 days and bring a blood relative for support. Additionally, the government has a Medical Tourism website that allows visitors to see what procedures are available, in what region, and at which medical provider.
India offers highly educated doctors that can usually speak English and conduct the most complex surgeries at a fraction of the price. This is the driving motivation for many medical tourists that choose India as their medical destination.
Some of the most popular areas of treatment for medical tourists include cardiac, oncology, organ transplants, fertility, and orthopedic.
5. South Korea
South Korea has the highest number of cosmetic procedures per capita in the world. This demand is mostly fueled by the young female population in South Korea pursuing treatments to adhere to intense beauty standards. Naturally, the impressive results have shone a light on South Korea’s medical system, and the country has experienced a boom in medical tourism.
It’s estimated that over 379,000 patients came to South Korea for medical tourism in 2018. South Korea has advanced medical technology and many individuals come for plastic surgery, spinal treatments, and organ transplants.
Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of medical tourism has also increased costs. So, expect to pay increasingly high prices for your procedures if you opt for South Korea.
Medical tourism can be the right choice for many reasons. Whether you’re looking to save money or benefit from more advanced medical technology, sometimes international options simply make sense. When choosing medical tourism, it’s important to do your research, consider visa restrictions, and select a safe facility for your procedure.