Editor’s Note: A new paper by Professor Leigh Turner of the Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota offers an interesting look at the current realities of the medical travel industry in Canada. The article effectively analyzes websites of Canadian medical tourism companies that advertised international healthcare but ultimately exited the marketplace. While the article doesn’t delve into the reasons for the departures it does examine what services the companies offered, where they were provided, and the nature of their marketing message.
I contacted Turner to learn a bit more about his interest in the industry and plans for future research in other countries. He kindly responded with the following:
“…I’m interested in numerous questions emerging from my study of Canada’s medical tourism industry.
- Why do some medical tourism companies disappear from the marketplace?
- What sets financially successful medical tourism companies apart from unsuccessful competitors?
- If trust is an important component of having a medical tourism company organize care abroad, how do companies promote trust — and is this trust deserved?
- What are leading international health care destinations promoted by facilitators?
- What types of marketing messages do medical tourism companies use?
- Is it true that the medical tourism industry is in a period of rapid expansion, or is the market for medical travel much smaller than many individuals assume?
In addition to exploring these questions, I remain involved in studying ethical issues related to business activities of medical tourism companies. In particular, I’m interested in examining: how well medical tourism companies disclose risks and benefits of various medical procedures; how information is provided to prospective clients in a context in which minimizing discussion of risks might help sell medical procedures; how capably they integrate healthcare provided in different settings; whether medical tourism companies accept moral and legal obligations to clients or try to make healthcare providers and medical facilities in destination nations fully accountable if clients experience harm as a result of receiving care abroad; what happens to all of us as healthcare is increasingly commodified and subjected to competitive marketplace pressures; and how medical tourism companies deal with ethical concerns related to how medical travel can harm public health and health equity in countries from which medical travelers depart and nations where they receive treatment.
I’m particularly interested in studying ethical, cultural, social and economic dimensions of medical travel in specific settings rather than developing analyses that are ahistorical and acontextual.
With regard to my focus on companies in Canada, I’m Canadian, my initial research into medical travel began in Canada, I’ve had a longstanding interest in Canadian medical tourism companies, and this article is in some respects a conclusion to a long-term research project — and in other respects the beginning of new endeavors. Though I plan to continue studying medical travel originating in Canada, I hope to develop a comparative dimension to my research. At least for the next phase of research, I see myself restricting analysis to medical tourism companies in three to four additional countries. Trying to study all medical tourism companies in particular countries is fairly labor-intensive. While I plan to compare Canada’s medical tourism industry to medical tourism companies in other countries I’d rather explore in detail a few countries than examine many of them in a superficial manner.”
We’re grateful to Professor Turner for providing this additional insight and invite readers to view the entire article by clicking here.