Medical Tourism - History, Evolution and Future
Modern medical tourism can find its roots as far as Ancient History, across all continents. Even before the Ancient Greeks started building shrines to Asclepius (Greek god of medicine) there was evidence of various hill tribes in modern day Switzerland travelling to presently German and French lands to visit the iron-rich hot springs which they believed to have healing powers. When the Ancient Greeks started building the shrines, they were considered the first medical centers, and people from all over the Ancient world would travel to one of these to find a cure for their ailments. In Ancient times, the primary destinations for medical tourism in the West were the hot springs and Greek medical centers. In the East, however, yoga and the Ayurvedic medicine had just come into being and were drawing a lot of attention, even from the Western civilizations, especially because those were seen as alternative healing methods. In the Renaissance, the Europeans discovered the healing powers of hot springs again, which sparked another wave of travelling in Europe. As we will see, thermal springs, wellness and herbal solutions like Ayurveda are still highly sought after today.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, new technology translated into innovations in the medical field, which was something that other cultures were lacking. At the beginning of the 20th century, people travelled from all over the world to the USA to get the highest-end medical care.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the focus of the medical tourism industry was to get more organized, more inter-connected. The beginning of this century saw the medical improvements in nations such as India, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, Ukraine and Czech Republic. The regions of Far East Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe focused on bringing in the patients from the West, as they could now provide the same quality of treatments and procedures at significantly lower prices. Combined with ever-cheaper traveling costs, those regions are now highly interesting to people who seek their cures outside their own borders.
Current Trends in Medical Tourism
Depending on the country the patient is from, the reasons as to why they travel are different. Those who travel from the so called ‘developed’ world to the ‘developing’ countries (such as Thailand or Mexico) do so because the prices are much lower than in their home countries, while the technology is still at an excellent level. However, the opposite is also true. People travel to the developed countries from places like Africa or Eastern Europe because there isn’t a type of treatment they need in their own country, or the treatment they receive in the ‘developed’ world is much better than the one they would receive at home. Some countries, like Thailand, have practices which are not really culturally or legally allowed in others. Patients mostly travel to the ‘developing’ world for dental care and cosmetic surgeries, to the ‘developed’ countries for cancer treatments and stem cells, while they travel to Thailand and Turkey for plastic/cosmetic surgery, which includes sex change.
What Makes Us Think That Medical Tourism Is the Future?
Dental care is probably the best example of ‘developed’ to ‘developing’ countries type of medical tourism. In the already developed countries, the cost of repairing and caring for your teeth is extremely high. This has forced many people to look for dental care in the less developed countries. Western Europeans look to Eastern Europe, while people from USA go to Mexico to get their teeth fixed. For example, 4 dental implants would cost around $15,000 in the US, less than half of that, $6,000, in Latin America and a baffling $1,000 in Serbia. This more than makes up for the cost of travel and stay in those countries.
Cuba is another good example for medical tourism. Due to their advancements in medicine, which is one of the primary focuses of their government, they now have treatments for diseases that were previously thought to be incurable, like the diabetic foot or even lung cancer. Since the Cuban government is under sanctions, none of their medical advances can be applied anywhere else, which makes them the only country to offer these treatments to the world.
As we could see, travelling for wellness is as old as the civilization itself. Some places are just naturally blessed with hot springs which are the basis of wellness treatments. This means that those that don’t live near a hot spring have to travel. Since spas are good for a wide variety of illnesses, it is not surprising that countries that have an abundance of those, like Czech Republic or Germany, are doing excellent in the medical tourism world.
The biggest innovation in the medical world, the stem cells are also one of the major reasons why people travel. The level of application of these cells vary from country to country, and some countries, like India, China or Germany have made significant advances and they offer stem cell treatments for practically all “no-hope” and chronic diseases. So, people from the countries that have limited options for stem cell treatments rush to these countries to get their treatments.
PlacidWay - How We Take Things Forward
At PlacidWay, it is our mission to further help with the overall integration and inter-connectedness of the medical world. We strive to achieve this through creating the world’s largest healthcare network, which allows us to find hidden healthcare solutions around the world and present it to the willing patients globally. Through this, we aim to give our customers a wide variety of choices for treatments, ranging from traditional medicine, like Ayurveda or TCM, to the latest innovations in the more developed world, like stem cell treatments. Through this borderless system we aim to promote and propel global innovation and exchange of people, ideas and innovations.
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