When most people hear the word “tourism,” they think of an exotic, wind swept Island bolstering its economy by shuttling mainlanders in white socks, khaki shorts, and blue floral shirts from one grass-shack gift shop to another. It conveys a sense of excitement; a fun and innocuous diversion for those trapped in cubicles or shoveling snow much of the year. But for some, when the term is changed to “medical tourism,” there are visions of a secretive trip to some far off, third world country to have a dubious procedure performed in less than ideal conditions. Not illegal, but somewhat ‘unsavory.’ But is that what medical tourism really is?
No. Medical tourism today is a far, far different thing than it has ever been. We live in an age of Internet connectivity, readily accessible travel, and greater knowledge, not only of the medical sciences, but of the world around us. Skilled doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals exist across the globe. In fact, when you think about it, some of the brightest and best medical students that earn an ivy league education in the United States, return to their homeland shortly thereafter. So there is no “over here” versus “over there” anymore: Everywhere is “here.” Today, Medical Tourism means the ability to have global options for care instead of just local ones. And it does not have to mean a trip from Toledo to Turkey; It can simply be a flight to Dallas, or Los Angeles. Price is not the determining factor in every case, either. Some procedures may actually cost more when done elsewhere, but the fact that a non-local hospital specializes in that field and offers a greater focus as well as level of care, make it the most viable option.
In short, our greater connectedness on this planet – and the ease with which new technologies are implemented globally – mean that there are far more resources available, in far more places, and for far more people than had ever been the case in the days when the county hospital was the only game in town. We live in a brave new world with many changes coming. Medical Tourism is a key part of it all. Medical Tourism has a new meaning today, and it stands to take a much more prominent role in healthcare for all of us. So leave the khakis and flowered shirts at home, and get ready to be a whole different kind of ‘tourist!’