Deloitte Touche has released an update on medical tourism. (Deloitte Paper) The paper notes that while outbound medical tourism likely dropped from 750,000 patients in 2007 to 540,000 in 2008, it should pick up very substantially, growing to 1.6 million by 2012. Among the factors facilitating this growth are continued cost-sensitivity on the part of patients, facilitation and promotion by health plans, accreditation and monitoring by independent and trustworthy bodies such as Joint Commission International and Patients Without Borders, and ample supply of good quality foreign medical facilities.
Deloitte adds that continued demand for dental and cosmetic surgery, which are often not covered by health plans, will also lead to more medical tourism. The increasing diversity of the US population, with many first and second generation citizens of non-European nationalities, also means there are more people comfortable with traveling to a foreign country for medical care. Deloitte’s survey work, however, continues to indicate strong reservations among many Americans–69% said they would be unlikely to go offshore for care. That may change as health care costs continue to rise rapidly and those costs are shifted to patients.