The medical tourism industry is booming around the world.
In nations like the United States or Canada, medical treatment can be quite expensive, or they may require a long waiting period. (Learn More)
When you search for affordable treatment in another country, there are several considerations, including international accreditation along with price comparisons. (Learn More) You must also consider costs like applying for a visa, plane tickets, medical care before traveling, and accommodations while you recover from your procedure. (Learn More)
Medical Tourism Is Booming Due to Cost Savings
As medical care costs rise in many countries, more people in the United States and United Kingdom are engaging in medical tourism — going to non-Western countries for medical care because it is much less expensive.
Many personal factors go into the decision to travel for medical care, but cost, especially out-of-pocket cost, is the main factor in deciding to travel internationally for a procedure. It is estimated that as many as 1.4 million Americans traveled to other countries for medical treatment in 2017, expecting to save between 30 and 65 percent on costs.
Blogs and articles online report that medical tourists can save thousands of dollars on cosmetic procedures, dental surgery, fertility treatments, and other procedures by traveling abroad. The costs of medical procedures around the world change every year, but medical tourists report saving anywhere from 50 to 90 percent on the cost of various treatments.
These savings often do not include the cost of required visas, medical treatment at home to prepare for travel, airline tickets, and food and accommodations while in another country. You must take these additional costs into account when making price comparisons.
There are risks too. If things go wrong, it will increase the overall cost of the procedure greatly.
How to Find the Prices for Procedures in Accredited Clinics in Other Countries
When you research costs on medical tourism in other countries, there are many online articles published on various websites that offer information about general cost savings — percentages in different countries or a cost comparison that may be a few years old.
These outlines don’t consider the price of housing, plane tickets, visas, or other options. In addition, the cost of medical care in every country changes depending on the year, the doctor’s education, the hospital’s accreditation, the popularity of the city or country, and several other factors.
To find the latest costs of medical treatment at accredited, renowned hospitals or clinics in other countries, here are some of the best resources:
- National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers International (NABH International): In the United States, NABH reviews hospitals, doctors, and clinics, offering accreditation for members based on rigorous standards determined by a board of medical professionals. The international branch of this organization offers the same review process for medical practitioners outside the U.S. You can search their website for recommended hospitals, dental clinics, allopathic clinics, and other options. Read about costs and inquire with clinics that interest you.
- Joint Commission International (JCI): Like NABHI, JCI is the international branch of the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals and clinics. JCI uses the same standards as the Joint Commission to offer accreditation to international facilities. Their search tool allows you to search by country and specialty, so you can find the right treatment for you in the best location. You can also ask each provider about cost directly.
- Medical Tourism Association: This group keeps track of the latest trends in medical tourism, including costs. They publish a magazine, offer membership to organizations abroad, and help you determine the steps you need to take to travel abroad for medical care. They also keep a page on pricing, so you can look at updated information and see what your costs of treatment might be in various countries.
- MedicalTourism.com: This website manages a great deal of information on medical tourism in countries all over the world and keeps an extensive, updated price sheet on the cost of operations in many nations. For example, the cost of a heart bypass surgery in the U.S. is $123,000 on average; this is compared with countries like Costa Rica, where the cost is $27,000, South Korea, where the cost is $26,000, and Malaysia, where the cost is $12,100.
Additional Costs Can Add Up
If you do choose to travel to another country for medical care, there are several additional factors you must consider before making the journey. For example, some countries offer vacation packages specifically for medical tourists, providing a comfortable room and easy access to food; however, not every nation offers these options. Along with the cost of travel like getting a visa and plane ticket, the overall cost of the adventure can be close to the original cost of the procedure in your home country.
There is also a risk of poor-quality surgery, which means you will need additional medical care later. While you may stay in the country for a few weeks or months and receive additional lower cost treatment while you are there, you may end up spending more money than you originally intended. In contrast, spending more money on the original surgery in your home nation, and recuperating in the comfort of your house with your friends and family for help, can actually save you more money in some cases.
The choice to go abroad for medical treatment is individual, but it requires time to find the right clinic, thorough research to ensure your personal safety, and financial planning for any eventuality. Even if you appear to save money on the surface, you may not save on your medical treatment in the long term.
Medical Tourism. (December 5, 2016). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Medical Tourists: Incoming and Outgoing. (January 2019). The American Journal of Medicine (AMJ).
Save Thousands as a Medical Tourist in These Five Countries. (December 6, 2017). The Huffington Post.
Homepage. (December 13, 2017). National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) International.
Homepage. Joint Commission International.
Medical Tourism FAQ’s. Medical Tourism Association.
Compare Prices: Prices are as of 2019. MedicalTourism.com.