The medical tourism industry seems to be getting kind of confusing. Everybody wants a piece of it. I saw a news story that says 50 countries have declared themselves to be medical tourism destinations. That seems a little optimistic for a lot of them. My Google alert for “medical tourism” yesterday contained links to stories about medical tourism in India, Philippines, Korea, China and even Iran – yeah, Iran even says they will become a medical tourist hot spot.
It’s really confusing when the same countries that people flee to avoid high costs and long wait times come out and say they are going to develop their health care system to attract foreign patients. It seems like they are trying to talk their way out of a bit of a contradiction. In the story about Canada the goal is to help fund the “free” health care of Canadians with fees paid by foreign patients. But that’s a little tricky because they are competing with other established international hospitals that are much lower cost. It seems possible, however, that they could command a premium from U.S. patients because of proximity (lower travel costs and greater convenience) as well a applying lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about seeking treatment in “third world countries” (despite, of course, that many of those overseas hospitals have certifications the Canadian hospitals don’t even have). But it might work. The question is can they find a sweet spot in the pricing that is competitive yet still profitable.