“Medical tourism” has been a recognised market since the 1980’s and is now a rapidly developing. The increase in technological and medical research and developments, augmented product consciousness and globalisation are among the most influential trends that affect the industry.
Consumer behaviour can be summarised in four main reasons why patients travel abroad for medical care: a) availability of treatments, b) quality of health care, c) reduced waiting times and d) cost savings. All these factors together could result in even more countries taking initial steps to attract foreign patients as well as a surge in medical tourism products, which will allow the industry to flourish.
Current issues lie in the fact that there is a global deficit of information about medical tourism which could hinder the industry’s potential. This is often due to countries wishing to maintain a competitive advantage or a result of limited information having been collected or recorded. Medical tourism often provokes ethical and legal discussions causing concern for the industry. Nevertheless, measures are being taken to minimise these factors with new laws, such as the proposed EU Directive for Cross-Border Health Care, and third parties being established. Even though there is currently a large number of accreditation bodies, other issues are rooted in the absence of a uniform international hospital accreditation system and the varying quality of medical services provided.