Researchers from the University of York, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Royal Holloway University and the University of Birmingham warn about the myths surrounding medical tourism in a new article set to be published in Policy & Politics.
“In the past decade or so, the global health policy literature and consultancy reports have been awash with speculations about patient mobility, with an emphasis on how ever greater numbers of patients are travelling across national jurisdictions to receive medical treatments,” said lead author Dr. Neil Lunt.
"What is clear is that there exists no credible authoritative data at the global level, which is why we are urging caution to governments and other decision-makers who see medical tourism as a lucrative source of additional revenue," Lunt said.
"What data does exist is generally provided by stakeholders with a vested interest rather than by independent research institutions," he added.
Dr. Daniel Horsfall did the statistical analysis for the study. “We found that historical flows between different countries and cultural relations account for a great deal of the trade,” Horsfall said.
“The destinations of medical tourists are typically based on geo-political factors, such as colonialism and existing trade patterns. For example, you find that medical tourists from the Middle East typically go to Germany and the UK due to existing ties, while Hungary attracts medical tourists from Western Europe owing to its proximity.”
But the researchers believe medical tourism is not as popular as it might seem.
“Our message is: be wary of being dazzled by the lure of global health markets, and of chasing markets that do not exist,” Lunt said.
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