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Published on : Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In a latest development, a team of British researchers, led by the University of York, has warned governments and healthcare decision makers across the globe to be wary of the myths and hype surrounding medical tourism.
In an article, to be published in the journal Policy & Politics by Policy Press, the researchers challenged the idea that ever greater numbers of patients are prepared to travel across national borders to receive medical treatment.
‘Medical tourism’ is where people leave their own country to seek medical treatment abroad. They are typically treated as private patients and the costs are fully recouped. This is distinct from ‘health tourism’ where there is not always an intention to pay.
The authors, who include academics from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Royal Holloway University, and the University of Birmingham, looked beyond the NHS and the UK to address the wider international issues of medical tourism, examining how other countries are addressing this global phenomenon.
They describe ‘three myths’ of medical tourism: the rise of medical tourism; enormous global market opportunities; and that national governments have a role to play in stimulating the medical tourism sector through high-tech investment.
The researchers say these three widely-held assumptions cannot be backed up with hard evidence but are encouraged by parties with vested interests such as healthcare providers, and brokers and facilitators who act as intermediaries between providers and patients.
Lead author, Dr Neil Lunt, from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, said: “In the past decade or so, the global health policy literature and consultancy reports have been awash with speculations about patient mobility, with an emphasis on how ever greater numbers of patients are travelling across national jurisdictions to receive medical treatments.
“Yet authoritative data on numbers and flows of medical tourists between nations and continents is tremendously difficult to identify. What data does exist is generally provided by stakeholders with a vested interest rather than by independent research institutions. What is clear is that there exists no credible authoritative data at the global level, which is why we are urging caution to governments and other decision-makers who see medical tourism as a lucrative source of additional revenue.