With rising health care costs in the world and the emergence of wellness travel destinations that offer high-quality, affordable health care and great travel experiences, natives are rushing to book appointments with healthcare providers away from home. Every year, millions of patients travel from countries that lack the medical infrastructure or are underdeveloped in specific areas of health care to countries that provide highly specialized health care.
This has led to the emergence of a strong global medical tourism market valued at over $37 billion in 2019. Patients book affordable flights to countries for medical procedures ranging from cosmetic surgery to dentistry to orthopedic surgery. Competition is fierce for medical tourism destinations and healthcare providers, requiring an interplay of factors to drive medical tourism and enhance their brands in the medical tourism market.
According to the Medical Tourism Index, countries’ attractiveness to medical tourism, national economy and overall image, medical cost and medical quality are the main factors driving the growth of medical tourism in destinations.
Using these metrics, here are the top 10 medical tourism destinations in the world.
It’s no surprise that Canada is No. 1 in the 2020 edition of the Medical Tourism Index, as the world’s second-largest country has a strong tourism industry that attracts more than 14 million Americans each year. Its proximity to the United States has brought an influx of tourists and patients to the country in an attempt to circumvent long wait times and high domestic medical costs.
Canada has an excellent reputation for providing high-quality, specialized medical care and top-notch healthcare facilities. However, this has resulted in long waiting lists for the country’s main medical services, which has also led to an increase in outbound medical tourism in the country.
Singapore is ranked second in the Medical Tourism Index and first in the country for the quality of medical facilities and services. As of 2019, more than 500,000 foreign tourists traveled to Singapore for quality and affordable healthcare.
Singapore recently established the International Patient Service Centre (IPSC) to act as a medical travel agency to mediate between international patients and Singaporean healthcare providers.
Gleneagles Hospital is one of the best hospitals in Singapore, offering top-notch medical services, state-of-the-art facilities, and highly-trained specialists.
️Seeking healthcare in Singapore can save patients 25% to 40% of what they would pay for the same services in the US. For example, heart bypass surgery costs $140,000 in the US and $25,000 in Singapore. Hip replacement surgery that costs over $45,000 in the US can be done in Singapore for as little as $13,000.
Japan has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world. Leading the latest developments in technology and medicine, Japan continues to provide top-notch healthcare services to foreign citizens and tourists, mainly from mainland China.
The number of medical visas issued to international patients jumped from 70 in 2011 to 1,650 in 2018, according to the country’s foreign ministry, as medical visitors are drawn to the country’s leading cancer treatment centers and plastic surgery expertise.
️Low medical costs are also a major driver of medical travel in Japan. A hip replacement surgery that cost $30,000 in the U.S. costs $4,126 in Japan, saving more than 70% of the cost of treatment in the U.S.
Spain is known as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, with its tourism profile attracting tens of millions of tourists every year. The country has been rated as the top European medical tourism destination by MTI as it offers high-quality healthcare services and a wonderful travel experience to foreign patients.
Spain is attracting a growing number of international tourists from the Middle East, North Africa, and the British Isles, many of whom travel to the country for advanced cosmetic, orthodontic, and dental procedures.
Spain offers high-quality healthcare at a fraction of the cost of US and UK hospitals. Cosmetic procedures that cost up to $15,000 in the U.S., such as facelifts and breast augmentations, cost an average of $5,000 in Spain.
Spain has several JCI accredited hospitals, including the prestigious University Hospital of Madrid and Sanitas Hospital in Madrid.
U.K (United Kingdom)
The UK is ranked fifth in the MTI World Medical Tourism Destination Rankings. The UK is home to prestigious medical institutions such as the London Orthopaedic Clinic, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and Cambridge Orthopaedic General Hospital, known for their high-quality medical care.
The UK is also the most popular tourist destination, welcoming more than 31 million international visitors each year, many of whom are drawn to the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Cost is also a major factor driving millions of international patients to the UK. For example, a knee replacement surgery that costs more than $30,000 in the US can cost less than $20,000 to be performed in a UK hospital.
Dubai is known for its ultra-modern architecture, high-rise buildings, and luxury stores. With a population of over 9.4 million, Dubai welcomes over 10 million tourists each year. The beautiful setting and beauty of Dubai have inspired the travel experience of millions of international patients who come to Dubai for world-class care.
The Medical Tourism Index ranks Dubai as the best medical destination in the Arab region as it includes international hospitals and international doctors of various specialties. Dubai mainly receives medical tourists from Asia and surrounding Arab and Gulf countries, but also some tourists from European and African countries.
Dubai launched Dubai Health Experience (DHX) in 2018 to enhance its medical tourism brand by strengthening medical facilities and improving the patient experience through its international patient division.
Costa Rica is rapidly growing into a leader in the medical tourism market. Known for its beautiful scenery and competitive prices, Costa Rica welcomes millions of medical tourists from neighboring countries, including the United States and Canada.
️In recent years, the Central American country has ranked higher than Canada and the United States in the field of dentistry and plastic surgery. The country has also made a name for itself in eye surgery, cancer treatment, and bariatric surgery.️
Located in San Jose, Rancho CheTica offers medical travelers an exotic healing sanatorium for patients who enjoy healing in a relaxing setting. The farm also has trained nurses to meet the medical needs of these patients as they recover.
Health care costs in Costa Rica are 45% to 65% lower than in the United States, saving patients a lot of money.
The country has excellent medical and health experts, as well as some modern medical facilities. These settings provide much less processing than other countries in these and other regions.
Of particular note in this regard are Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, Aga Khan Hospital, and Shifa International Hospital.
Pakistan used to be the largest organ transplant center. Additionally, billions of rupees and people recovered from kidney transplants before strict laws and enforcement were put in place to prevent the illicit trade in organs.
Medical tourism is definitely on the rise. The industry has huge potential, especially in orthopedics, ENT, urology, optometry, and cardiology. If given due attention, the industry can help stabilize the economy and create a better image of the country.
As the capital and largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has created a strong platform for medical tourism, potentially making it the best in the region.
The emirate launched its Abu Dhabi Medical Tourism Portal in 2019, providing international patients with detailed information on all medical services and medical facilities in the city. Prospective patients can also obtain medical travel insurance packages through the online portal. As well as, other travel services such as hotel reservations, transportation, and leisure activities.
Healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi adhere to strict quality standards set by the city’s Ministry of Health to ensure the highest quality of care.
In addition to enjoying the panoramic views and beautiful tourist attractions of Abu Dhabi, patients visiting the area will also enjoy affordable medical service prices. For example, prostate surgery costs $10,618 in the United States and about $7,896 in Abu Dhabi.