In simple words, the term Medical Tourism means the act of traveling to another country in search of better, affordable and sustainable medical treatment. This can be either because the treatment in question is unavailable in the home country, is expensive or illegal. While conventionally this kind of travel was from the less developed to high developed nations for medical treatment, the trend has in recent past taken a new twist with people traveling from high to less developed countries for the same purpose. The former is however still common.
Medical tourism can take place between continents such as Europe and Asia, between states in a continent such as from one state of America to another, or between neighbouring countries in one region such as from Tanzania to Kenya in East Africa. Medical tourism has been on a steady rise in recent years, with a report by VISA and Oxford Economics valuing the industry at a staggering US$439 billion dollar.
It’s growth rate is projected to 25% annually over a period of 10 years, with 3%-4% of the world’s population estimated to travel internationally for medical treatment. The report further projects the industry to stand at approximately US$3 trillion by 2025, numbers likely to be achieved due to factors such as reduced cost of cross-border health treatment combined with attractive destinations and lack of some approved or available medical procedures and treatments in home countries among others. Some of the medical treatments mostly sought after include cardiac surgery, kidney transplant, dental treatment, bone marrow replacement, fertility related procedures etc.
While VISA’s report, supported by the Medical Tourism Index (MTI) findings pass that the United States, Asia and Europe lead in medical tourism, it is also true that Africa is making great progress in claiming a bigger share of the multi-billion dollar industry. South Africa leads as a top medical travel destination in the continent, taking position 27 out of MTI’s top 41 destinations globally. Kenya is also experiencing an exponential growth, with the industry valued at approximately US$100 billion dollars. Other African countries highly recognized in the health travel industry include Rwanda, Tunisia and Morocco.
With approximately 11 million medical tourists traveling annually across the globe, the industry is also set to benefit more from technological advancements and globalization. The medical state in every aspect is also expected to better, Africa included, as every country strives to win the race of becoming a medical hub in order to provide proper and affordable healthcare to its citizens as well as to foreigners; cashing in on the foreign currency.