Medical Treatment Abroad
The high cost of medical treatment has fueled the development of the medical tourism industry: On a global scale, over 37 million health-related trips exist and a forecast of around 32.5 Billion USD will be generated by 2019.
Why are patients opting for medical tourism?
An American patient requiring bypass surgery can expect to pay around the region of $100,000, if they choose to do the surgery elsewhere say, in Mexico, he/ she would pay only $4,000 for the very same procedure! This startling difference is one of the main incentives for patients to seek treatment abroad, in the field of medical tourism. Medical tourism offers diversified treatments, it accounts not only for complex heart surgery, but also for elective surgery, such as a facelift.
Today, the medical tourism industry is flourishing; many patients are opting for medical treatment abroad mainly due to the high cost in their home country, insurance not covering costs, or inaccessibility (or lack of availability) of particular diagnostic or treatment procedures. International patients (medical tourists) can receive the very same procedure in a shorter period and at a relatively cheaper cost than what they expect to pay in their home country. Patients traveling abroad avoid long waiting lists, and can find highly regarded medical institutions that offer quality services with the latest medical equipment and top doctors.
In addition, most medical facilities around the world have or are in the process of obtaining international medical accreditation to demonstrate to international patients their high quality and safety protocols. Most hospitals further assist foreign patients by offering translation services to eliminate any possible language-barriers; some even offer a medical coordinator that fully assists the patient throughout their medical procedure. Depending on the location, hospital and treatment package, patients can enjoy VIP-like treatment, stay in fully equipped private rooms during their procedure, all while having a holiday – speeding up the recovery process.
The medical tourism destinations
Dominating the medical tourism market are Costa Rica, Thailand, India, Brazil, Singapore and many other prominent destinations. In this article, we focus on two other popular destinations in the Middle East and their influence on the medical tourism field - Dubai and Israel.
The international Healthcare Research Center together with the Medical Tourism Association, formulated the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) – a list that measures and ranks the popularity of a destination, according to its environment, medical facilities and medical tourism among other factors.
Medical tourism in Dubai
In 2014, the Medical Tourism Index ranked Dubai in 17th place for medical tourism.
The United Arab Emirates attracts many tourists with its futuristic skyscrapers and islands, and now its emerging medical tourism industry has gained further interest, particularly in Dubai:
According to government officials, a forecast of around 500,000 medical tourists are expected to flock to Dubai, going beyond their target by the year 2020. Patients from European countries, Africa, India, Pakistan and more, come to Dubai for plastic surgery, infertility treatment and orthopedic treatment. The main hub of the region is esthetic procedures, such as hair implants, liposuction and other cosmetic surgeries. Of Dubai’s 2,900 medical facilities, there are around 30 hospitals, of which four are private, with 10 new private hospitals opening in the near future.
However, some patients face obstacles even before they enter Dubai for medical treatment – entrance permit and visas are problematic for those traveling from particular countries. Furthermore, the high influx of international patients coming to Dubai, has led to many UAE nationals seeking (cheaper) treatment abroad, this may affect further profitability and its high reputation in the medical tourism industry. International patients from the West will experience vast cultural differences, such as expecting the Muslims call to prayer five times a day – affecting business hours; they too must abide by moderate dress code and avoid public displays of affection. In addition, internationals will have to adapt to Dubai’s extreme arid and hot climate.
Dubai is not a definite option for all in terms of its prices, patients should expect to pay around 10% more than what they would in the US or UK, but its geographical location and luxurious accommodations make it an ideal destination for treatment. Dubai appeals to the affluent, with its glitzy mega shopping malls - one of which is the largest in the world, as well as numerous museums and the Gold Souk - a labyrinth of alleyways of one of its famous jewelry markets, to name a few.
Israel: Pioneers in Medicine & Science
Despite its meek size and a population below 8 million, Israel is big on innovation and technology, its medical tourism industry too, is gaining momentum growing in demand:
According to the Medical Tourism Index, Israel ranked third for medical tourism in 2014. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Israel with the seventh highest life expectancy in the world, thanks to its excellence in healthcare and medical devices. It is also a nation with the highest number per capita of engineers and scientists and a booming life sciences industry, patients can expect advanced medical treatment.
The majority of Israeli doctors have trained overseas in the US or other prestigious institutions, many of which excel, completing further qualifications making them leaders in their respective field. Israel’s high specialist-patient ratio, as well as its 700 general hospitals and medical institutions make it advanced and at the forefront of healthcare. Patients travel from Eastern Europe, Cyprus, US and African countries to Israel; communication between the patient and specialist is effortless, English is widely spoken across Israel –for other languages, a translator is available.
Furthermore, Israeli hospitals continue to invest in the latest medical equipment (some of which were developed in Israel), and its top quality medical facilities perfect the high level of healthcare that a patient receives. Complex treatments and procedures unavailable in other countries are more accessible in Israel and at competitive prices.
Israel is world leading in IVF treatment, even dubbed by some as the “world capital of IVF” – over 4% of babies are born annually to Israeli women who underwent assisted reproductive technology (ART). IVF treatment is far more affordable in Israel than the US – patients can save up to 70% in costs. More importantly, Israel has one of the highest IVF success rates in the world. Other areas of medicine that Israel has a high reputation in include oncology, bone marrow transplants and heart surgery (especially bypass surgery).
Post-treatment patients can recover in an idyllic and multicultural setting, either enjoying the Mediterranean coastline, the healing benefits of the Dead Sea or visit one of its many stunning national reserve parks – not to mention the buzzing cultural and culinary delights Israel has to offer. Additionally, patients can choose to visit Christian, Jewish or Muslim religious sites across the country. Traveling to Israel directly using major airline carriers from major cities across Europe and the US is hassle-free, the majority of medical tourism agencies (or international departments of hospitals) assist with Visa arrangements, making the process a lot smoother and more convenient for the patient.
While the cost of medical procedures in Israel may be higher than that of Asian countries, patients can still save 50% of the cost of treatment than what they would pay in the US, for example. There is no compromise on the quality of treatment and each patient’s case is treated individually using innovative methods, some of which are exclusive to Israel.
Patients interested in receiving medical treatment abroad should conduct thorough research to fully understand their options in order to fully benefit from the experience and achieve a successful outcome. Patients should find a destination that is renowned for its advanced treatment approach, is an accredited hospital, has top doctors and is cost-effective.