Every decision we make can have a direct effect on our health. Whether you’re wondering what to have to eat or where to go on vacation, each has the potential to leave a lasting impact on your well-being.
Vacations are a great example. We use them to get away from stress, but can often stress ourselves out with them. Where will we go? Where will we stay? We consider them our best chance to get away from the daily grind, but they can often be as stressful as they are relaxing.
Even with all the potential stress, we still spend on vacations like our lives depended on them. The global tourism market surpassed $1 trillion in 2012, and with good reason. The stress of planning a vacation doesn’t keep us from wanting to go.
But, what about those whose lives actually do depend on their vacation? For some who travel, vacations can be about life and death. For those vacationers, it’s about the best affordable medical care and not about the whitest sand and cheapest hotel rooms. It’s the reason health tourism is a growing industry and one experts are predicting to see huge gains in over the next five years. It’s currently estimated that it could grow to be as much as a $140 million dollar business by 2020.
The industry as a whole is driven by a number of factors. Two important ones involve affordable care and state of the art treatment. Daniel Carlin, M.D., the founder and CEO of global telemedical practice company WorldClinic, discussed this in an interview with Forbes.
“The best healthcare solution to a particular problem is often not found in your local medical center or health system and I suspect that challenge will probably get worse before it gets better. In the USA, because virtually all hospital revenues come from third party reimbursement, it is ultimately the third party – the insurer or Medicare – that decides what care most people are going to get. Informed people with serious medical problems look globally for treatments that are superior to what they can get at home under Medicare and they are willing to pay for it privately.”
The growth of the new global industry represents increasing competition to the medical industry in the U.S. for those customers who can afford the trip to find the care that most meets their needs. The best solution, as the doctor goes on to say later in the Forbes article, is to keep yourself from becoming ill well in advance through healthy lifestyles and advancements in the understanding of the human genome. For many though, that time has already passed.
It’s why the industry came into existence originally and why Bloomberg named Thailand as the global destination for health tourists in 2014. The U.S. ranked third on their list.
As medical care and medical costs continue to be hotly debated during this year’s election cycle, this is a story that will be interesting to monitor. One could very well have a direct impact on the other and both will likely have an effect on the impact the the niche tourism may, or may not, have on the domestic industry.