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Medical Tourism: International HealthCare Procedures, Destinations & Savings

  • Synopsis: Last Revised/Updated: 2015-03-16 - Information on medical tourism and international travel to obtain health care and surgery by overseas doctors.

Medical tourism (also known as medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare) is a term used to describe the rapidly-growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain health care. Medical tourism also refers to the practice of healthcare providers traveling internationally to deliver healthcare to patients.

Medical tourism or health tourism is defined as the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities, The recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third world countries for medical treatments because of cost consideration, though the traditional pattern still continues. Another reason for travel for medical treatment is because some treatments may not be legal in the home country, such as some fertility procedures.

Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries.

An estimated 750,000 Americans went abroad for health care in 2007, and the report estimated that a million and a half would seek health care outside the US in 2008. Furthermore, some US employers have begun exploring medical travel programs as a way to cut employee health care costs.

Health tourism providers have developed as intermediaries to unite potential medical tourists with provider hospitals and other organizations.

Companies are beginning to offer global health care options that will enable North American and European patients to access world health care at a fraction of the cost of domestic care.

Medical services typically sought by travelers include elective surgery procedures as well as complex specialized surgeries such as;

Medical tourism for knee/hip replacements has emerged as one of the more widely accepted procedures because of the lower cost and minimal difficulties associated with the traveling to/from the surgery.

The practice of traveling to another country for fertility treatments.

The main reasons for fertility tourism are legal regulation of the sought procedure in the home country, or lower price. In-vitro fertilization, donor insemination and surrogacy are major procedures involved.

Dental tourism

Involves individuals seeking dental care outside of their local healthcare systems.


Accreditation and other measures of quality vary widely around the world, and risks and ethical issues still make medical tourism a controversial topic.

Medical Tourism Association (MTA), the first non-profit trade association for medical tourism, is made up of international hospitals, healthcare providers, medical travel facilitators, insurance companies, and other affiliated companies and members with the common goal of promoting medical tourism in a global environment.

Quick Facts: Medical Travel Destinations & Saving

Popular medical travel destinations include

Popular cosmetic surgery travel destinations include

How much can you save

Using US costs across a variety of specialties and procedures as a benchmark, average range of savings for the most-traveled destinations:

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