Americans are Traveling to These 9 Countries for Medical Care

Healthcare costs in America increased 5.8% in 2015 to reach $9,990 per person. As one of the largest industries in the country, healthcare spending accounted for 17.8% of the GDP in 2015, according to data from CMS.

Rising healthcare costs, which are expected to continue increasing at a pace of 5.6% per year through 2025, are driving more Americans to seek medical care elsewhere. The medical tourism industry is booming, and as healthcare facilities improve overseas, more Americans are blending pleasure and wellness into their travel plans.

According to Patients Beyond Borders, the top specialties for medical travelers include:

  • Dentistry
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular
  • Reproductive
  • Orthopedics
  • Weight loss
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Tests and second opinions

The USA Outbound Medical Travel Market Report estimates that 15 million patients in the U.S. will travel abroad for care in 2017. Now, medical tourism companies are making door-to-door travel arrangements for Americans looking to get treatment overseas.

Where is the future of U.S. healthcare tourism headed? Many Americans will seek care at surprising destinations.

Top 9 Trending Health Tourism Destinations for Americans

  1. Singapore

Singapore’s public-private healthcare system and plans for a tourism program make the country a leading destination for medical travelers. The country’s healthcare system is top-notch – typically ranked amongst the highest in the world – and includes 12 private hospitals, several specialist clinics and eight government hospitals. Many specialist clinics are JCI-credited.

Singapore was ranked number one for the most efficient healthcare system by Bloomberg in 2014. The country ranked second in the world for medical care outcomes in 2014 by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Singapore also ranked number one as the world’s favorite medical tourist destination, according to a 2013 report from the PHD Chamber Medical and Wellness Tourism Report.

Medical travelers can seek care for virtually anything in Singapore, from orthopedics to cardiovascular, neurology, cancer, cosmetic surgery, reproductive issues and even sports medicine. The healthcare system’s blood supply also ranks among the safest in the world.

Because Singapore is a popular business destination, English is widely spoken, and as one of the wealthiest Asian nations, the standard of living is high. Still, Americans can enjoy a cost savings of 25-40% when seeking medical care in Singapore.

Political stability and a thriving economy eliminate many concerns medical travelers have when seeking healthcare abroad. Singapore also offers a variety of accommodation options, an efficient transportation system and a wide range of leisure activities.

  1. India

Offering significant cost savings, budget-conscious medical travelers favor India for its growing economy, well-trained doctors and low infrastructure costs. While patients will face cultural challenges, the cost savings on care is significant – up to 90%.

International medical travelers can seek care in several of the country’s large metro areas, including Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and New Delhi.

India is unique in that the country’s most skilled physicians are often born and raised in the country. India’s Asian counterparts are known for aggressively recruiting top physicians from other countries.

The country now has 21 JCI-accredited hospitals, up from just two in 2005.

Cardiovascular care has become a leading specialty in India. Specialty centers like Apollo in Chennai and New Delhi and Fortis Wockhardt in Mumbai are leading the way for heart care in India.

Apollo in particular is very accommodating to foreign medical travelers. The hospital has a dedicated “international patients” area equipped with translators and clocks that display times in major cities across the world.

  1. Thailand

Thailand may be known for its pristine beaches and vibrant nightlife scene, but the country is also becoming one of the most popular destinations for medical travelers. A complete overhaul of the country’s universal healthcare system has brought along new hospitals, advanced instrumentation and better technology.

Thailand’s hospitality expertise also extends to its healthcare system, which is designed to make patients feel welcome and at ease.

The country has more than 54 JCI-accredited hospitals – more than any other country in the region.

Bangkok’s Bumrungrad International Hospital is one of the busiest in Thailand. This massive complex covers a million square feet, and employs more than 900 physicians in just about every specialty imaginable. More than 300 of the doctors are US board certified.

Along with transgender procedures, Thailand’s specialties include cardiology, reproductive procedures, orthopedics, cardiology, dentistry and spinal surgery. Medical travelers can save between 40% and 60% when seeking care in Thailand.

Along with conventional medicine, Thailand is also home to world-renown wellness resorts and spas set in breathtaking settings along the country’s beaches.

  1. Mexico

Mexico has made significant progress in healthcare and is now known for more than just cosmetic surgery and dentistry. The country’s healthcare system now offers patients procedures and specialties that are on par with Asian nations.

As of 2015, Mexico had nine JCI-accredited hospitals. In 2006, it had none.

Mexico offers state-of-the-art medical centers, but many smaller clinics also offer excellent care in clean facilities. These clinics are often run by just one or two doctors, and many are either expatriate US doctors or trained in Europe or the United States.

While Mexico offers savings of 40-65% on healthcare, medical travelers will face their own set of challenges when seeking treatment. English is not widely spoken in many areas and patients are cautioned to stay in only well-regarded hotels.

Despite these challenges, Mexico will continue to be a popular destination for Americans seeking healthcare simply because it’s right around the corner.

  1. Brazil

Known as the global capital of plastic surgery, Brazil is a popular destination for medical travelers wanting cosmetic surgery. The country is home to more than 4,500 plastic surgeons, and many of the best practitioners are located in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.

Brazil is second only to the U.S. and China in the number of plastic surgeries performed each year.

There are more than 50 JCI-accredited hospitals in the country, which offer nearly every specialty and subspecialty.

Although Brazil is not known for its conventional medicine, patients can save 20-30% on cosmetic surgery procedures by traveling to this South American nation.

  1. Costa Rica

Once a popular destination for Americans seeking dental care, Costa Rica – like Mexico – has made strides in healthcare. The country now boasts two JCI-accredited hospitals and several smaller clinics that are AAAASF- or AAAHC-accredited. Along with dentistry, Costa Rica now offers numerous specialties, including cardiology, orthopedics, bariatrics and cosmetic surgery.

Offering beautiful parks, forests, volcanoes, waterfalls and beaches, Costa Rica offers easily-accessible leisure activities that make the country a prime destination for medical travelers.

The country’s healthcare system ranks as one of the top three in Latin America, according to the World Health Organization. Costa Rica’s healthcare also ranks higher than industrialized nations, like the United States and Canada.

In fact, Costa Rica is among the top five destinations for American medical tourists.

While the country offers a wide array of specialties, recovery and wellness retreats are uniquely popular in Costa Rica. Although the hospitals are smaller compared to other parts of the world, the care is top-notch and many facilities can accommodate English-speaking patients.

The healthcare costs savings can be significant in Costa Rica – 45-65%.

  1. Turkey

Offering diverse landscapes and cultures, Turkey is quickly becoming a favorite destination for medical tourists. The country welcomes health and medical travelers with open arms, and boasts more than 1,200 private and public hospitals. Many hospitals are partnered with world-renown international medical complexes.

In 2014, Turkey’s medical facilities treated more than 155,000 international patients. The country is home to 44 JCI-accredited hospitals – the most in the region.

Turkey’s top healthcare groups are in the country’s three major cities: Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara. Many of these groups offer door-to-door arrangements.

The country’s healthcare standards are notoriously high due to its stringent oversight, accreditation and certification systems. Turkey’s best-known specialties include transplantation, neurosurgery, genetic tests, cardiology, ophthalmology, cosmetic surgery, dentistry and orthopedics.

Turkey’s wellness industry is also booming. Its natural mud baths and spa resorts attract more than 500,000 visitors each year.

  1. South Korea

South Korea is a scientifically and technologically advanced country with a growing economy. Over the last 20 years, the country has grown to become a leading medical travel destination.

South Korea has more than 25 modern international hospitals. The Asan Medical Center is one of the largest clinical campuses in the world, with 3,000 beds. South Korea has 31 JCI-accredited hospitals and clinics – more than any other nation in North Asia.

While known for cosmetic surgery, South Korean hospitals offer a wide range of specialties, including cancer and spinal disorders.

Preventative care is also a growing sector of South Korea’s healthcare system.

South Korean hospitals offer technological advancements, with electronic health records and the ability for patient family members to watch procedures on television screens in the lobby.

International patients can enjoy cost savings of 30-45% by seeking treatment in South Korea.

  1. Malaysia

Boasting six JCI-accredited hospitals, Malaysia is becoming a top destination for international patients. Because the country was a British colony until 1957, English is widely spoken and Western culture is now ingrained throughout the country.

Malaysia’s private medical facilities must be licensed by law and are overseen by the Ministry of Health.

The country’s top facilities rival those in neighboring Thailand, and costs are comparable with most treatments. Malaysia is also known for its wellness exams, which include a vast array of tests for under $500.

There are more than 40 hospitals in Malaysia that serve international patients, and travelers can save 65-80% on care costs.

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