Handbook on Medical Tourism and Patient Mobility
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Handbook on Medical Tourism and Patient Mobility

Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld

The growth of international travel for purposes of medical treatment has been accompanied by increased academic research and analysis. This Handbook explores the emergence of medical travel and patient mobility and the implications for patients and health systems. Bringing together leading scholars and analysts from across the globe, this unprecedented Handbook examines the regional and national experiences of medical tourism, including coverage of the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The chapters explore topics on issues of risk, law and ethics; and include treatment-focused discussions which highlight patient decision-making, patient experience and treatment outcomes for cosmetic, transplantation, dentil, fertility and bariatric treatment.
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Chapter 8: The economics of health and medical tourism

David Reisman


The old medical tourism was South to North. It was the sultans and the sheikhs who could afford trips to the Mayo Clinic and Harley Street. The new medical tourist is global: not just from poor countries to rich countries but South to South and North to South as well. Comparative advantage, rising incomes, rising expectations, the ageing population, long waits, budget flights, differences in provision, the opportunity to combine medical care with recreational tourism are all drivers in the globalization of medical services. This chapter concentrates on three particular advantages for the international patient: price, quality and product differentiation. Price can be lower and labour often cheaper even if technical equipment has to be bought at world prices. Quality is assured by certifying bodies like Joint Commission International (JCI) and by professional training in respected medical schools. Product differentiation can take the form of traditional Chinese medicine in Beijing or Ayurveda in India, but also experimental drugs and commercial transplants. The new middle classes benefit from a greater range of choices, not least in elective areas such as cosmetic surgery and dentistry. The poor do not benefit directly, although indirectly they may enjoy spillovers such as employment, tax-funded welfare and cross-subsidization of services for the home population. The chapter concludes that, suitably managed, medical tourism can stimulate a regional and even a national multiplier that delivers a plus-sum gain through economic growth.

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