Reverse trend in medical tourism helps poor countries

Published on : Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lately, many Americans are considering travelling to Mexico or India for a less-expensive rhinoplasty or breast augmentation procedure, according to a report.
This trend is having an impact not only on the market for cosmetic plastic surgery but also tourism, according to an article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery-Global Open(r), the official open-access medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

The paper, by ASPS Member Surgeon Dr. Kevin C. Chung and Lauren E. Franzblau of the University of Michigan, discusses ‘the rise and profound change of the medical tourism industry, foreign and domestic forces that influence cosmetic surgical tourism, and the pros and cons for all parties involved ‘.

“The rapid globalization of the industry also marks a fundamental shift in the world’s perception of elective procedures: patients are becoming consumers and these medical services are being viewed as commodities,” Chung and Franzblau wrote.

More and more ‘Medical Tourists’ are traveling for cosmetic surgery to countries providing cheaper options. Travelling for medical care is nothing new, but in the past, people were more likely to travel from poor countries to obtain higher-quality care in wealthier countries.
Today, prompted by the ease and relatively low costs of travel, more patients from the United States and other western countries are travelling to the developing world to access less-costly medical and surgical procedures.

As cosmetic plastic surgery procedures are not covered by insurance, they make up a major part of the burgeoning medical tourism market. Figures vary, but there’s a consensus that medical tourism is growing rapidly: India alone may have more than one million medical tourists every year.

Other countries with growing medical tourism industry include Mexico, Dubai, South Africa, Thailand and Singapore.

Prices for cosmetic surgery in these countries are typically much lower than at home. For example, a breast augmentation procedure that would cost $6,000 in the U.S. can be done for $2,200 in India.

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