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Sun, Sea and Surgery? BY FEDERICO CIARDI, AUGUST 22, 2013

The industry of medical tourism is growing quickly all around the world in response to the ever-climbing price of US healthcare bills. Outraged patients have been warming to the idea of overseas provision of surgery and treatment over the past seven years, says the Medical Tourism Association; an operation that works towards helping Americans find suitable healthcare in other countries.

Europe is emerging as a key player in the medical tourism industry based on its competitive prices and well-respected medical reputation. Prices there are kept down by strict government regulation that stipulates a national maximum on specific operational cost, full price disclosures and pre-operative financial consent, among other things. As well as regulation on hospitals and operation centres, distributors are limited to the profits they can demand - lowering the price of the same prosthesis from $8,000 in the US to just $4,000 in Belgium. All of these factors reduce the price of a hip replacement from, at most, $100,000 in the US to just $13,600 in Belgium and France - a price described as “expensive” by top Parisian private surgeon Dr. Fabrice Gaudot.

The Middle and Far East are also emerging as rapid growers in the industry, with projected CAGR in Thailand and Korea of 26.5%. Countries such as India, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have also shown an interest in catering for traveling patients, with international patient attitudes towards them warming substantially. The company IsraMedica is the principle medical tourism agency in Israel, boasting provisions for numerous procedures including cosmetics, cancer treatments, orthopedics, IVF treatments and others, usually for a fraction of the US price. These countries are seen as agreeable for their holistic approach to recovery, often advertising yoga, massage and aromatherapy as complimentary and alternative medicines.

It is, however, cardinally important to note that medical tourism need not be synonymous with international travel. The New York Times has found that most NYC surgery centres would save money by transporting their patients to and from Buffalo, NY in a limousine for treatment. Prices in Glendale, CA have been as low as $14,450 for hip replacements, which is more than competitive in even the international market. This market trend presents a further growth opportunity for established medical brands to supply the security that Americans recognise in our healthcare system abroad and for a more competitive price.

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