The US healthcare system is the best in the world! — Only if you can access and afford it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a good healthcare system should ideally comprise of state of art medical facilities being fairly distributed across the entire population at fair and affordable rates. Contrary to this, the healthcare system in the United States is not only the most expensive in the world but also is unfairly distributed among its population. People who have access to an insurance cover may have some respite, but the scenario is hopeless for the poor, uninsured and the underinsured. The rising costs of technology and high administrative costs have escalated the overall medical expenses to such an extent that it has become too expensive for the people at large. On the other hand, the availability of similar medical facilities at fair rates in some of the offshore countries has made them a promising medical destination for the US citizens. This has led to the emergence of a phenomenon called medical tourism.
The recent years has seen an upsurge in the number of US citizens opting for medical treatment at offshore locations such as India, Singapore, Bangkok and Thailand. Most medical procedures in these countries are conducted at one-tenth of the cost of a similar procedure at the United States. The low cost of medical facilities in these countries may raise a few eyebrows regarding the quality of the medical services being offered. These countries offer world-class medical facilities that are at par with the best. Some of the doctors administering the patients have even been trained in US. The success rate and medical achievements has also been a major draw among the medical tourists. In the year 2005, around 3,74,000 medical tourists opted for a treatment at Singapore; a Bangkok hospital admitted over 1,50,000 foreign patients and approximately 1,00,000 tourists chose India as their medical destination.
However, among the various medical tourism destinations, India is on it’s way to becoming the most preferred destination among the medical tourists. The Indian healthcare industry with employee strength of over four million is among the largest service sectors in the economy. The government and the private hospitals are working together towards the objective of making India the leader in this sector. Well-trained and experienced doctors, state of art medical facilities and personalized care have helped India to register the fastest growth rate in this Industry. The number of patients seeking treatment in India has gone up from 10,000 in the year 2000 to 100,000 in the year 2005. If the estimates are to be believed, the medical tourism industry in India has the potential to be a 2 billion dollar industry by the year 2012.
Medical tourism is the best alternative for people belonging to countries such as the United States, where the entire healthcare system is unfair both in terms of cost and accessibility. The situation has become so precarious that it seems beyond repair. However, on the other side of the Pacific, the Asian countries have succeeded in offering a combination of world-class medical services, good care and prompt attention that has made them an instant favorite among patients throughout the world.