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As healthcare costs for all types of procedures continue to go up, many people are turning to medical tourism as an alternative-traveling abroad to find cheaper, more accessible medical care. These patients are seeking out everything from cosmetic surgery to open-heart procedures and it's becoming a rapidly growing industry. In 2014, CNN reported that 1.2 million Americans have sought such treatments, contributing to a $55 billion in revenue. This figure is expected to rise, with medical tourism growing by as much as 25 percent year-to-year.
For some Americans, serious medical procedures have simply become prohibitively expensive. A 2011 report by the OECD found that a heart bypass surgery can cost over $100,000 in the U.S. The same procedure in Mexico would cost around $4,000. Other countries, like Malaysia, Japan, and Thailand are welcoming this brand of tourism with open arms. Tourism-promoting groups are even offering incentives to travelers seeking medical care.
That said, there are some considerable cautions. U.S. medical officials are cautioning Americans against procedures abroad, as sterilization protocols can vary country to country. This can lead to all kinds of complications. In 2014, 19 American women traveled to the Dominican Republic for cosmetic surgery and subsequently contracted bacterial infections. Another downside of this booming industry is that it can limit access for local communities. At this point, though, there appears to be no sign of medical tourism slowing down.
Medical Tourism Statistics & Facts (patientsbeyondborders.com)
"With medical tourism still in its early stages, gaining reliable data is challenging."
Japan's hospitals weigh overseas branches, medical tourism in search for profit (japantimes.co.jp)
"Mount Fuji, medieval castles and amusement parks are among the most popular destinations for tourists coming to Japan."
The state of the international organ trade: a provisional picture based on integration of available information (who.int)
"Organ transplantation is an effective therapy for end-stage organ failure and is widely practised around the world."
Once again, U.S. has most expensive, least effective health care system in survey (washingtonpost.com)
"There are painful losing streaks that don't really matter -- say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-game disaster in 1976 and 1977 -- and losing streaks that really mean something. "