Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
This chapter presents a review of websites in order to explore the nature and quality of information that prospective tourists are subject to online. In the first instance, websites through which weight-loss surgery and dental treatment are advertised are reviewed. Here we find that these commercial websites often combine a ‘polished’ look with an authoritative tone. Alongside a ‘front of house’ similar to most commercial or retail websites, these sites also contain a substantial amount of information for visitors. Unfortunately, the standard of this information is extremely low, offering only partial coverage of issues related to medical tourism and downplaying, or simply not reporting, risks. Secondly, websites that purport to provide prospective medical tourists with important information that is not directly linked to the purchase of any product are reviewed. Sites such as those belonging to NHS Choices and the Department of Health, as well as consumer protection websites such as Which?, are reviewed with regard to the availability of ‘impartial’ advice that can be sought by prospective medical tourists. While misinformation and downplaying of risk is usually not an issue, the information available is still uneven and often incomplete. Neither commercial websites involved in the ‘selling’ of medical tourism nor more professional or informational websites fully equip the prospective medical tourist with sufficient understandable information with which to assess the benefits and risks of medical tourism. The chapter closes by considering the implications of this for medical tourists and whether and how medical tourism can be safely communicated.
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