Industry News: Volume 9, Issue 12

5 Hottest Medical Tourism Destinations

By Nick Cesare Each year, medical care in the United States is becoming more and more expensive. It’s not uncommon for patients to pay nearly $50,000 for fairly routine medical procedures while facing challenges from their insurance companies. However, many people are finding a better option. Some have saved nearly 86 percent on medical costs by traveling abroad for medical care. If you think that’s enough money to take a vacation; then you’d be right — and that’s exactly what over a million Americans do every year. Instead of racking up endless hospital bills and hidden insurance fees; many patients are choosing to travel for care that matches what they would find at home at much lower prices. With all of the money that they’ve saved; people are splurging on recovery vacations in all sorts of exotic medical tourism destinations.

Top 5 Medical Tourism Destinations

Here are five awesome destinations for medical tourism right now.


Mexico has always been a hotspot for travelers from the north. With its tasty tacos, endless beaches, and sunny winters, nobody needs an excuse to visit this country. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have one and traveling for a cheap, high quality hip replacement is as good an excuse as any. Once your procedure is finished, you can relax in a beachside resort and enjoy fresh fish from the ocean, perfect for helping you heal quickly.

Mexico’s medical offerings don’t stop at routine surgery, though. Even basic dental care is part of their repertoire, as Mexico is the closest and most accessible dental destination for many Americans.


Commonly associated with spicy food and ancient temples, Thailand is quickly making a name for itself in the healthcare industry as one of the top medical tourism destinations. With high quality hospitals in Bangkok, two international airports, and a relaxing climate, Thailand is a great choice if you’re traveling for medical care.

While you’re recovering, be sure to check out Bangkok’s legendary street food and hit up the local beaches.

As with other destinations across the Pacific, plan wisely for a long flight. Make sure that you’re sufficiently recovered before flying again and bring a comfy pillow for in flight napping.


It’s hard to avoid a joke about outsourcing to India, but the truth is that, as with many other services, you can get medical care in India that’s just as good as anything you would find in the West and much cheaper. India is an incredibly diverse country where many people speak English, so you’ll have no trouble getting around or asking for directions.

Once your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, there’s plenty to do in India. If you like, you can stick around the city that you landed in, or you can hop on a plane for a short ride to many other destinations in India.


Brazil is famous for beautiful beaches and beautiful people and it seems that they’ve taken that reputation to heart. Many people travel to Brazil each year for cosmetic surgery that is not only cheaper than what they might find elsewhere, but also of an unparalleled quality.

If you’re feeling up to it; you can always join in on an impromptu volleyball game on one of Brazil’s many famous beaches. On the other hand, if you’ve had enough of the ocean; you can always travel inland for a guided hike through the legendary Amazon. Wherever you go, however, be sure to stick to tourist-friendly areas. As many were quick to point out leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics; some parts of Brazil are still unsafe for visitors. You might also do well to avoid the Olympic Village, which has, sadly, not aged well.


The only one of the major medical tourism destinations located in Europe; Turkey has made a name for itself with the most JCL accredited hospitals of any country in the world. JCL, or Joint Commission International, is an organization dedicated to maintaining safety and quality standards for patients in medical facilities across the world.

While you rest, you can enjoy the ancient architecture of Istanbul; a city with a history of welcoming and tolerance for visitors from far away places. With buildings stretching back to the time of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire and more modern architecture built by the Ottomans; Istanbul is still shines as a seat of power from the old world.

Medical tourism is a great way to get important medical care; save money, and — most important of all — have a great vacation while doing it. There are many other countries besides the ones listed here that are beginning to realize the power of medical tourism, so we can expect doctors to cater to the interest of patients in the future.

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Medical Travelers Clamor For Luxe US Health Care

By PYMNTS – The Shapiro Tower Pavilion at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers its patients sweeping views of Boston’s skyline from their rooms that are styled with high-end furniture and takes patient care to the next level with round-the-clock concierge service and gourmet food prepared by professional chefs.

The extravagant hospitality provided at the penthouse suites of the pavilion, which are often occupied by the uber-wealthy, provides a glimpse into a growing market of medical travelers who come to the U.S. to seek top-notch health care.

In 2016, nearly 300,000 foreign patients are estimated to have traveled to the U.S. to seek medical treatments, according to Patients Beyond Borders.

For better treatment and comfort, U.S.-bound medical travelers don’t seem to mind the extra cost, which makes them particularly lucrative patients for hospitals in the U.S. An international patient seeking a popular procedure, such as heart bypass surgery, in the U.S. can expect to shell out nearly $75,345. In comparison, the same treatment would cost $42,130 in Australia and a mere $15,742 in the Netherlands, according to the International Federation of Health Plans.

These patients, many of whom come to seek treatment for high-acuity conditions, spend an average of $35,000, representing approximately 22 percent of the global international health care travel market, Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, told PYMNTS.

In 2017, the demand among international travelers for U.S.-based health care is anything but slowing down. And U.S. hospitals, for one, are racing to tap into the growing market.

“The ‘brand-name’ academic medical centers (AMCs), including Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, Mass General, Jackson Memorial, Cedars Sinai, Brigham and Women’s, MD Anderson, HSS, Sloan Kettering and Texas Children’s Hospital, get the lion’s share of the international business,” Woodman explained.

A look at the websites of the top 20 U.S. hospitals reveals the different strategies they are employing to entice international patients.

Each of these hospitals has set up exclusive international patient services divisions, which act as a singular stop for medical travelers where all of their needs can be taken care of.

The division at Cleveland Clinic, rated the second best hospital in the U.S., appoints a “global services coordinator” to its incoming patients to provide them end-to-end assistance with planning their first international appointment, including visa information, billing and payment assistance, lodging and even special rental car discounts.

In 2012, the Cleveland, Ohio-based hospital treated 3,200 international medical travelers — a third of whom came from the Middle East. Since then, the hospital has extensively grown its international patient services division to cater to its increasing traffic. In 2016, the hospital treated 4,000 medical travelers, who came from 170 countries.

To entice a larger number of medical travelers, top medical centers, especially in South Florida, New York and Houston, have been spending millions of dollars cultivating their facilities to attract international patients, Woodman noted. More recently, they are seeing a growing influx of patients from China.

Health care facilities across the U.S. are implementing new programs that appeal to a diverse base of patients seeking treatments today. The special language assistance program is one such offering that is a common denominator at all of the popular health care facilities in the U.S.

The Cleveland Clinic currently offers its services in 12 languages. Its top competitors — Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which is ranked number one, and Mass General in Boston, Mass., ranked number three — do the same.

These hospitals are also furthering their efforts to reach patients who cannot travel all the way to the U.S. by offering second opinions through telephone and video conferencing services. Nine out of the top 10 U.S. hospitals now remotely offer second opinions for a $500–$700 consultation fee.

US hospitals go abroad

With demand for high-quality and advanced medical treatment growing, U.S. hospitals are now increasingly expanding their footprint overseas by establishing representative offices in their target markets.

Mayo Clinic is particularly focused on tapping into affluent Canadian and Latin American travelers wanting to seek treatment in the U.S. The hospital has opened three representative offices in Canada and one each in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico that act as local points of contact for patients in the region.

The hospital publicizes its specialties in treating cancer, neurology, cardiovascular diseases and transplants and offering top-notch executive health programs.

Johns Hopkins, which is ranked number four in the U.S., is using collaborations with other hospitals as a strategy to expand its international presence. So far, the Baltimore, Md.-based hospital has collaborated with 19 hospitals in North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Latin America to offer its services outside the U.S.

The Cleveland Clinic, on the other hand, exclusively targets Middle Eastern patients by offering Arabic translation of its text and video archive on its website.

The hospital has also opened representative offices in Weston, Florida; Toronto, Canada; and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Seeing the high traffic from the Middle East, in 2014, the hospital signed a 15-year partnership with the UAE to open an acute care center in Abu Dhabi, where patients could avail themselves of the same standards they were offered at its facilities in the U.S.

For the Cleveland Clinic, the opportunity to expand its presence to the Middle East meant building a new revenue stream.

“We look at it as our petrodollars coming home to Cleveland,” the Cleveland Clinic’s CEO, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, told Reuters at the time of the announcement. “It’s money coming back to us.”

These expansion plans come at a time when U.S. health care facilities are facing intense competition from Asian countries, such as China and India, that offer cheaper medical treatment options. Whether their international investment strategy will globalize U.S. health care for good remains to be seen.

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Tale of Two Nations: Medicine Across the Border

How did Canada and the U.S. wind up with such different approaches to healthcare

By Michael Smith – This is the first in a week-long series comparing the Canadian and U.S. healthcare systems, critically examining the stereotypes through which they are often viewed.

Consider two countries. They are neighbors, with a common majority language, similar cultures, a long history of alliance and friendship. For most of their history, healthcare in the two had been indistinguishable — similar training and skills for doctors, similar hospitals, and similar patient expectations.

The two countries are, of course, Canada and the United States.

In the years after World War II, doctors in Canada and the U.S. practiced medicine in ways that were all but identical. They used the same textbooks and had similar medical schools. Their hospitals were usually community-based non-profit institutions. And patients either paid out of pocket on a fee-for-service basis or had some sort of health insurance, itself usually non-profit.

Healthcare in the two countries was so similar that up until the mid-1960s “the (U.S.) Joint Commission on Hospital Quality could operate up and down the border, could go to Canada,” says Yale University’s Ted Marmor, PhD, an expert on comparative studies of medical systems.

Moreover, he says, “the structure of argument about how medical care should be financed and distributed was quite similar.”

But looking across borders today, the picture is starkly different: Canada has a single-payer insurance system for hospital care and physician services that is intended to cover everybody, while the U.S. has a patchwork of public and private insurance schemes with important gaps in coverage.

To some, Canada’s healthcare system is a mess of dreary, unresponsive, and crowded hospitals staffed by regimented, unhappy doctors, while to others Canada’s system is a shining city on the hill, with high-quality medical care for all.

To some, U.S. healthcare is a soulless industry that excludes the poorest from care and charges the earth to those who can meet the bills, while to others the U.S. system is the home of some of the best and most innovative medical care on the planet.

All those views, of course, contain some grains of truth, but in the current caustic atmosphere surrounding U.S. healthcare, it’s not enough to point to the north and invoke a stereotype. Instead, we need to ask questions about both countries and see how the answers stack up.

The first question might be: How did we get here? How did two similar countries, starting from much the same place, arrive at such different solutions? Then the obvious next question is: How are those solutions working, for patients, for doctors, for payers, and for society as a whole?

The second question is the tough one — and MedPage Today will spend the next few days considering some aspects of it — but the answer to the first is a relatively straightforward matter of history.

In the years after the second world war, Marmor says, both countries saw “an increase in the sentiment about treating medical care as a merit good and distributing it more fairly than had been done in the past.”

Initially, steps toward that goal in both countries were blocked by what Marmor calls conservative coalitions — the national medical associations and political structures. President Harry Truman, who had proposed a system of national health insurance in the late 1940s, saw the idea labeled “un-American” by the AMA, which called his administration “followers of the Moscow party line.”

Reaction was similar in Canada, with the added difficulty that healthcare, under the country’s constitution, is a provincial responsibility; the national government had no formal jurisdiction (although in the 1960s Canada’s Parliament found a way around that.)

“Medical care financing is one of those issues that divides societies; it doesn’t unite them,” Marmor said. Across the developed world, he added, proposals for healthcare reform have never had bipartisan support.

Nonetheless, the idea didn’t go away.

In the late 1950s, Democratic politicians in the U.S. proposed a more targeted program that would ensure that people over 65 had medical care, the program that would eventually emerge in 1965 as Medicare/Medicaid.

What was dubbed a “three-layer cake” included hospital insurance paid for by Social Security taxes, a voluntary program covering physicians’ costs paid for by a contribution from beneficiaries and general revenue from Washington, and an expansion of the earlier Kerr-Mills Act.

Outside the public sphere, however, U.S. medicine was also undergoing a huge change. A collection of small businesses whose owners knew they would never get rich but would be well-regarded in the community became an industry with all its entrepreneurial baggage.

“When I was in medical school, there wasn’t any talk about money,” said Jamie Koufman, MD, director of the Voice Institute of New York. “The idea of medicine being driven by money came along in the ’60s and ’70s.”

It has gotten to the point, she said, that “now we have coders making rounds with doctors and interns to make sure no service goes unbilled.”

“Healthcare industry is an oxymoron.”

North of the border, healthcare remains much less industrialized, although we shall see that there is a constant current push in that direction.

As the U.S. was developing its systems, legislators in the western province of Saskatchewan had introduced a taxpayer-financed system of hospital insurance and later extended it — over vociferous opposition from the medical establishment — to cover physician services.

That program became the model for what Canadians, confusingly, also call Medicare — a collection of 13 provincial and territorial single-payer insurance systems, which comprehensively cover hospital and physician services (but not dental care or outpatient drug costs or some other types of care).

The Canadian government got into the act — despite its constitutional restrictions — by offering to pay half the cost of such programs in any province or territory that set one up. Not surprisingly, there were no hold-outs, and by 1961 the bones of the current system were in place.

Public support for the project was “huge from day one,” said Gordon Guyatt, MD, of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., while for the provincial and territorial governments the federal offer was such a “juicy carrot they couldn’t resist.”

And doctors’ incomes — based on fee schedules negotiated between medical associations and the provinces and territories — went up, so there was little opposition from the profession. “The doctors were essentially bought off,” Guyatt said.

There are some variations, but overall Canadian Medicare has several characteristics:

  • It’s universal — All citizens and legal residents are covered for hospital care or physician treatment
  • It’s free — in the sense that there is no direct cost to patients at the point of care (but the money comes from tax revenue)
  • It’s portable — Patients from Ontario, for instance, can get still get care if they fall ill elsewhere in the country
  • It’s administratively simple — Doctors deal with a single payer on an established fee schedule

In general, prescription drugs are not covered outside of the hospital setting and neither is dental care, so many Canadians turn to private or employer-provided insurance to cover those gaps or pay themselves. Most provinces and territories do provide drug coverage for some groups, with variations across the country. Ontario, for instance, has a drug assistance plan for residents 65 and older.

So by the end of the 1960s, both countries had national healthcare programs in place, with one important difference, Marmor said: “Canada went for universal benefits first, we went to population groups first.”

What has happened since? How are these different solutions working? Like the proverbial elephant and the blind men, the answer can depend on what part you examine. MedPage Today begins to describe the elephant tomorrow.

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Immigrant physicians: Why are they vital for U.S. healthcare?

By Norman Miller – Approximately a quarter of the country’s physicians are international medical graduates. This diverse physician community, many of whom obtained their medical degrees abroad before taking up positions in the United States, play a significant but often overlooked role in U.S. healthcare.

According to the American Association of Medical College (AAMC), more than 6,000 international medical graduates (IMGs) come to the U.S. each year to participate in medical residency programs, under what are known as J-1 non-immigrant visas.

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Employers Are Destined for Health Quality and Cost Savings 

By Laura Carabello— At the intersection of high-quality healthcare and the most affordable costs imaginable, sits a jewel of a hospital: Health City Cayman Islands (HCCI).

To view the original article in its entirety, please click here.

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