Medical Tourism: $100B and growing

Smartlipo in Mexico, a nose job in the Philippines or a kidney transplant in India.....

Medical tourism is generally defined as leaving home for care. It can be inbound, (someone from Mexico coming to the US), outbound (leaving the home country to go to another country) or domestic. There are local, regional, national and international medical tourism clusters developing throughout the United States and around the world.

It is estimated that global medical tourism is a $100B global industry expected to grow significantly over the next few years. While no one can know for certain the effects of the recent US healthcare reform bill, rising costs, lack of supply of physicians and the demand for technologies and treatments continue to expand and fuel the growth of the industry.

There are several ways for physicians to get involved in medical tourism. The first is as a provider, either in their home location or in a remote site doing surgery. Second, physician entrepreneurs are creating service companies like medical tourism facilitators or aggregators. Other potential business opportunities exist in supporting the medical tourism supply chain by providing insurance products, healthIT infrastructure, real estate projects, quality ratings agencies, accreditation and marketing arms and other consultation services. In addition, more and more payors and employers are offering voluntary medical tourism benefits to their employees and insureds, driving the demand for talent who can do medical tourism quality improvement and utilization review.

The most common procedures sought by patients considering medical tourism are cosmetic surgery and dentistry, bariatric surgery, IVF and short stay procedures in urology, orthopedics, ENT and ophthalmology. That said, because of the onerous costs of some procedures in the US, patients are seeking life saving cardiac surgery in India, proton beam irradiation in South Korea and living donor liver transplants in Asia.

A recent report from the Center for Medical Tourism Research in San Antonio, Texas called medical tourism "arguably one of the fastest growing industries in the US"  Maybe it's time for you to take a look.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is Cofounder, President and Chief Medical Officer for  He will be a speaker at the Medical Fusion Conference in November.