Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Medical Tourism Poised for Continued Growth

The past few weeks brought two new reports pointing to growth in the medical tourism market.

An April report report titled “World Medical Tourism Market—Opportunities and Forecasts, 2014–2022," projects the world medical tourism market could reach $143.8 billion by 2022.

The study was published by Allied Market Research (AMR).

And the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) agrees that interest in the niche is climbing. CEO Jonathan Edelheit says “the industry has maintained a 15%-plus growth per year, and many of the destinations around the world are reporting increases in medical tourists.” 

Established in 2007, the Florida-based Medical Tourism Association is made up of 400,000 global members including countries, healthcare clusters, hospitals, facilitators, and insurance companies.

The MTA’s Global Medical Tourism Index, released this week, ranks 41 countries based on 34 criteria, with input from over 4,000 respondents from across the United States.  The top five ranking countries are Canada, the U.K., Israel, Singapore, and India. Canada ranked number one in the category Destination Environment; India ranked first in Medical Tourism Industry; and Israel topped the list for Quality of Facilities and Services.  

The study found that buyers all over the world are entering the market at a much faster pace than before. Medical tourism also is becoming regionalized; two new events for MTA are the China Conference, June 3-5, and the Abu Dhabi Conference, November 22-23, 2016.

Industry drivers

The major factors contributing to market growth are the “affordability, availability, and accessibility of superior quality healthcare services with healthy support and assistance from tourism departments and local governments,” says AMR research analyst Vivek Singh.

Also pushing the growth are the increasing incidence of cancer and other serious ailments, and the rise of medical tourism associations and medical travel agencies to help combat them.

AMR predicts that North America and Asia-Pacific will remain the principal revenue-generating regions. They accounted for more than 60% of the global medical tourism market in 2015. Within North America, Mexico was the biggest customer, followed by the United States. In the Asia-Pacific region, the major shareholders are Thailand, Singapore, and India.

Growth inhibitors

As much as the industry is poised for great growth, there are identified deterrents:
“Limited coverage and lengthy partial reimbursement offered by insurance companies along with difficulties associated with cross-border travel, such as language barriers, connectivity, documentation, and visa approval issues, are likely to restrict the market growth,“ Singh noted.

On the destination side, Edelheit says the MTA is seeing some destinations fail in their efforts to establish themselves in the field of medical tourism for reasons including “a lack of the industry coming together to support their destination” and “healthcare providers that do not necessarily have the experience in international patient services, or the technology in place to handle incoming patients.”    

Las Vegas wants to be a player

In the United States, Las Vegas is one destination that has been creating a solid base for future development as a medical destination.  

“Providing medical care is a serious business,” Cheryl Smith, specialty markets manager for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA), told TMR. “It requires a responsible approach, and we want it to be on par with other services the city is known for.” 

She says the city has been working since 2011 to bring the medical and hospitality communities together. “The LVCVA and its regional partners are developing the industry from multiple perspectives and looking at medical tourism in a comprehensive way, and not simply as a travel sector.”  

Las Vegas has developed a series of strategic initiatives to support the growing volume of medical travelers over the coming years, including: 
  • Bringing the local hospitality and medical industry sectors together to see where they intersect.
  • Introducing legislation to fund and support new medical schools to educate future health-care professionals.
  • Addressing the need for physicians by making it easier for physicians from other states to obtain licensing in Nevada.

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