Medical Tourism: Friend or Foe?

The integration of Medical Tourism in a country´s healthcare system is a feat that promises tantalizing rewards for those who manage to surpass its many challenges and trade-offs.

Hospitals who embark on the journey of incorporating medical tourism into their portfolio should be aware of the new dynamics and paradigm shift associated with it.

Medical Tourism has been identified at our organization as a potential new source of revenue.

We are currently in the process of devising a strategy to incorporate this new service in our hospitals.

Having identified some important variables related to this new activity (see below), we are worried that the integration of medical tourism might prove to be a disruptive element to our current operations and activities:

  1. Paradigm shift: from citizens with rights to healthcare services to patients becoming consumers of health care.
  2. Identification of multiple new stake holders (tourism agencies, marketing, visas, accreditation …)
  3. Patient´s perspective: interruption of traditional continuum of care, complications, privacy and confidentiality (signed informed consents …)
  4. New resources / circuits / operations required to support medical tourists.


  • Could the introduction of medical tourism provide us with a source of a sustainable competitive advantage?
  • Would our current set of activities support this new service?


Balancing Local and System Interests (Aren’t we on the same team?)


Physician Employment Strategies: Maximizing Alignment and Engagement

Participant comments on Medical Tourism: Friend or Foe?

  1. I love the strategy of medical tourism if your organization is in a position to provide higher value healthcare than the competition. Either your outcomes are better, or your cost structure is lower, or both. The logistics can be a challenge, but the financial rewards can be very, very good. Many large US Centers have competed for medical tourists for many years, however, these have historically represented extremely high net worth individuals who can pay retail cash rates that are staggering. As the out of pocket costs for healthcare increases in many western countries, the market for medical tourism is expanding and will likely include those patients of much more modest means. It is not unthinkable that many elective surgeries from cardiac to orthopeadic may go the way of medical tourism–this pie will definitely increase. A organization can likely learn from those who have provided care to both the wealthiest in the world as well as the Medicaid population in the same facility , albeit on different floors! Undoubtedly , cash paying medical tourists will have different expectations than those who are receiving subsidized national care, but the organizational and logistical changes required to meet these expectations are not overwhelming and may be well worth the investment.

    1. Do you think medical toerism Interesting when it helps influencing the home-based institutions like the Example of the Caiman islands.

  2. Medical tourism is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenging business with a great deal of risk and unintended consequences. Some challenges include making sure your organization is truly culturally competent, particularly at the care provider level, significant increase in expenses related to costs for this population (translators, travel arrangements, scheduling complexity, very, very delayed payment practices, business cultures that differ significantly from your own, unreasonable outcome expectations, etc etc. A huge challenge for most US systems occurred in the past two years when the price of oil dropped significantly, so did medical tourism. We are still waiting for payment for some of our patients from FY 2015. If you have a truly elite hospital that can be expected to maintain significant outcome differences and a really strong brand, then it is an area where the margins can be very high and worth the risk, otherwise there are easier dollars to chase.

  3. A very interesting strategic challenge indeed. There is a lot to be said about medical tourism. For my company as a payer for healthcare it is sometimes a blessing, for example if there are waiting lists for a procedure here and in another country our clients can be helped right away. But I also see a steep downside, in communication, in offering integrated care, liability, follow up costs and the lack of transparency. In my eyes it might complicate new bundled payment methods as well. It most certainly will make it harder for us to represent our clients. On the other hand it might be a solution as well for the case I wrote about prostate care. Why would you prevent patients to travel if the outcomes are significantly better elsewhere? The strategic upside for your company is interesting not only being a healthcare provider but being part of an insurance company as well.

    1. Do you think medical toerism is interesting when it helps influencing the home-based institutions like the Example of the Caiman islands.

  4. The world population is aging and becoming more affluent at rates that surpass the availability of quality healthcare resources. In addition, out-of-pocket medical costs of critical and elective procedures continue to rise, while nations offering universal care are faced with ever-increasing resource burdens. These drivers are forcing patients to pursue cross-border healthcare options either to save money or to avoid long waits for treatment. Medical tourism is both a friend and foe. A friend in that one can get the best healthcare overseas that is affordable. On the other hand most medical tourism continue to exploit the patients especially the cancer patients who travel in search of treatment when it is too late. The patient are treated but most of them die overseas before completing their treatment.
    Medical tourism destination should go beyond advertising their hospitals and create strategic alliances with governments of countries where these patient comes from, This can be through building hospitals and training doctors and other health care workers, This will reduce diseases burden and save more life’s through proper and early diagnosis of chronic illness and cancers which are the major diseases that make people seek treatment overseas

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