Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism is a topic covered in the CDC Yellow Book.

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Medical tourism is the term commonly used to describe international travel for the purpose of receiving medical care. Medical tourists may pursue medical care abroad for a variety of reasons, such as decreased cost, a recommendation from friends or family, the opportunity to combine medical care with a vacation destination, a preference for care from providers who share the traveler’s culture, or to receive a procedure or therapy not available in their country of residence. Medical tourism is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar market that continues to grow. Surveillance data indicate that millions of US residents travel internationally for medical care each year. Ongoing reports of infections and other adverse events following medical or dental procedures abroad serve as reminders that medical tourism is not without risks.

Common categories of procedures that US medical tourists pursue include dental care, noncosmetic surgery (such as orthopedic surgery), cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplantation, and cancer treatment. Medical tourism destinations for US residents include Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, and Thailand. When reviewing the risks associated with medical tourism, travelers should consider both the procedure and destination.

Overseas facilities may not maintain accreditation or provider licensure, track patient outcome data, or maintain formal medical record privacy or security policies. Medical tourists should also be aware that the drugs and medical products and devices used in foreign countries might not be subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and oversight as in the United States. In addition, some drugs may be counterfeit or otherwise ineffective (for example, expired, contaminated, or improperly stored).

Most medical tourists pay for their care at time of service and often rely on private companies or medical concierge services to identify foreign health care facilities. Some US health insurance companies and large employers have formed alliances with health care facilities outside the United States to control costs.

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Medical tourism is the term commonly used to describe international travel for the purpose of receiving medical care. Medical tourists may pursue medical care abroad for a variety of reasons, such as decreased cost, a recommendation from friends or family, the opportunity to combine medical care with a vacation destination, a preference for care from providers who share the traveler’s culture, or to receive a procedure or therapy not available in their country of residence. Medical tourism is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar market that continues to grow. Surveillance data indicate that millions of US residents travel internationally for medical care each year. Ongoing reports of infections and other adverse events following medical or dental procedures abroad serve as reminders that medical tourism is not without risks.

Common categories of procedures that US medical tourists pursue include dental care, noncosmetic surgery (such as orthopedic surgery), cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplantation, and cancer treatment. Medical tourism destinations for US residents include Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, and Thailand. When reviewing the risks associated with medical tourism, travelers should consider both the procedure and destination.

Overseas facilities may not maintain accreditation or provider licensure, track patient outcome data, or maintain formal medical record privacy or security policies. Medical tourists should also be aware that the drugs and medical products and devices used in foreign countries might not be subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and oversight as in the United States. In addition, some drugs may be counterfeit or otherwise ineffective (for example, expired, contaminated, or improperly stored).

Most medical tourists pay for their care at time of service and often rely on private companies or medical concierge services to identify foreign health care facilities. Some US health insurance companies and large employers have formed alliances with health care facilities outside the United States to control costs.

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