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Future of Medical Tourism

by Kelly Moser ,  Chiangmai News | 2008-07-07

By 2015 the health of the Baby Boomer generation will begin to deteriorate. This leaves more than 220 million people in Canada and the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand seeking medical care in what is an already crowded and expensive health care market.

Although medical tourism seems to be more popular of late, it's certainly not a new concept. Thousands of years ago a small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria was famous for medical tourism. Greek pilgrims travelled from all over the Mediterranean to the sanctuary of the healing God, Asklenios. Spa towns and sanitariums may be considered an early form of medical tourism as well. In eighteenth century England, medtrotters visited spas for the benefits found in their mineral waters, which were said to have strong healing properties and treated ailments including liver disorders and bronchitis.

Since that time people from all over the world have been seeking medical care that is timely and affordable. An estimated 43 million people in the US are without health insurance and 120 million without dental coverage. Patients in Britain and Canada are facing a waiting period of more than a year for hip replacement surgery, when, if they could come to Bangkok or Bangalore they would be in the operating room the day after getting off the plane. Countries such as Thailand, India, Costa Rica, Cuba, Hungary, Israel and others are actively promoting medical tourism and are offering packages that include a recovery vacation. South Africa specialises in medical safaris combining procedures such as a nose job with the chance to see lions and elephants.

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