Busted: 7 Myths About Medical Tourism

Are you hesitant about getting that perfect facelift because it is too expensive or are you stuck on a long waiting list for a hip replacement surgery? Medical tourism is the solution for you. Before you give up on the idea of travelling abroad for treatment due to the fear of loosing out on quality, recheck your facts.


Travelling overseas for medical care is an important decision to make, which is why that decision must be based on sufficient research and care must be taken to not fall prey to the many myths surrounding the medical tourism industry.

Let’s take a peek at some common myths that might be clouding your judgement about medical tourism, and debunk them.


Myth 1: Medical Travel Overseas Ensures Bankruptcy


While is a common belief that travel costs in medical tourism will eat up any money you save over the medical procedure, this assumption is not true. In most cases, the overall expenditure is less than the expenditure of treatment locally. This holds true especially in the case of people travelling from developed countries to less developed countries for cost effective healthcare.


Medical tourists from the US can save as much as 40-60% on elective procedures like knee replacement surgeries in India, and this amount includes hospital stay and travel costs apart from the entire treatment costs.


Fun Fact:

  • Teeth cleaning can cost as much as $300 in Canada but hardly $30 in countries like Thailand and Mexico

If anything, medical tourists can save a considerable amount of money being spent on medical procedures and at the same time use it to recover comfortably in an exotic country.


Myth 2: Cheap Treatment = Low Quality Treatment


In reality, cheap treatment in developing countries is due to reasons like cheap labour. The cost of living is considerably lower in developing countries like India. The popularity of medical tourism has boosted the quality of healthcare in these countries and they possess state-of-the-art technology that is better or on par with medical infrastructure in developed countries like the United States.


Competition among countries and within them, and between hospitals and clinics, ensure improved quality of service. Most hospitals in developing countries seek accreditation from Joint Commission International (JCI) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) among others that sets the bar for quality and standard in healthcare services. This ensures that treatment at low costs in these countries are provided without compromising on the quality at all.


Myth 3: Doctors Overseas Are Not In Par With Those In The USA


Most doctors and medical staff abroad are in fact educated in countries like the US and UK. They receive quality training and early work experience from these countries and contribute to the improvement in quality of healthcare in their own countries of birth.

Medical Tourism Myths Debunked

Accredited hospitals outside USA only hire doctors that have the necessary medical qualification, knowledge and skills.


Most professionals have US or local certifications that are recognised worldwide. Doctors in accredited hospitals are verified thoroughly, through stringent performance evaluations and their practice follows international standards.


Fun Fact:

  • Around 9,500 overseas doctors are employed in US hospitals


Ironically, most doctors employed in the US are from different countries other than the US, which implies that coming from a different country shouldn’t be a criterion for judging the ability of a doctor to deliver quality service.


Myth 4: Healthcare Infrastructure Overseas Is Substandard


Medical tourism in Asia is flourishing, and this has improved the quality of services. Decades of substantial economic growth in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have enabled medical infrastructure to grow into world class facilities, which are competitively priced.


Due to technological advancement and increased funding for research, quality of infrastructure is ensured. As mentioned earlier, hospitals and clinics compete with each other to provide the best experience to a medical tourist while catering to a multicultural client base.


Most hospitals in medical tourism destinations are privately owned and they have access to modern medical equipment, which enables them to attract medical tourists from around the world.


Over 600 hospitals outside the US are recognised by the Joint Commission International, which is considered to be the gold standard in healthcare services. This is proof of the good quality of healthcare available overseas.


Myth 5: Medical Tourism Is All About Cosmetic Surgery


Elective procedures like cosmetic surgery remain popular forms of treatment to undergo abroad, but a host of other medical procedures which include emergency treatments, and stem cell therapy are also sought by medical tourists.


Emergency medical procedures are increasingly being sought in neighbouring countries. For example, a large number of Bangladeshis travel to Malaysia for critical surgeries like heart valve replacement. Most patients from the UK travel to neighbouring countries like France and also farther ones like India in order to avoid long waiting lists.


Critical surgeries are increasingly being performed abroad, given that the travel is now short and easy.Different forms of elective procedures are also being increasingly sought overseas. Alternative therapy, like Ayurveda, which might not be available locally, can be explored in Eastern countries.  


Procedures like gender reassignment surgery which are illegal in countries like the US can be performed in countries like Thailand.


Myth 6: Medical Tourism Has The Word ‘Tourism’, And Hence Should Not Be Taken Seriously


The phrase medical tourism emphasises the ‘medical’ part more than the ‘tourism’. The important thing to note is that health is not to be taken lightly, and this phrase does not intend to do that. The primary motive of medical tourism is medical treatment, which is offered overseas at affordable prices and thus involves travel beyond the borders of the home country.

Medical Tourism Myths Busted

Medical tourism is primarily about undergoing medical treatment abroad. But why not enjoy recuperating in an exotic beach at the same time?

The ‘tourism’ part also helps to make sure that after the ‘medical’ part is taken care of, recovery can be comfortable and a vacation-like setting helps that process.


Myth 7: Medical Tourism Is New And Not An Established Industry

Medical tourism as a concept can be traced back to ancient times, when Greek pilgrims travelled to Epidauria in order to find Asklepios, their healing God. As an industry, medical tourism has been functioning for decades, with US patients travelling to countries like Mexico for cost effective healthcare. Medical tourism has been in the news more frequently in the recent times due to its sudden spurt in growth.


33% of patients worldwide in 2009 were medical tourists. Around one million patients from the US travel abroad for treatment every year. The potential of this industry is being vastly explored and its significance has only been increasing.

Choosing to opt for medical tourism is not a piece of cake and these myths only make it harder to objectively decide the best possible course of action. Now that these myths have been debunked and are out of the way, all that there is left to do is pick your hospital and destination for your treatment, and start packing your bags.

Published inMedical Tourism
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