France tops a list of 20 destinations with the most potential for medical travel, according to a new report by the research arm of The Economist magazine.
The report’s Medical Travel Index contains surprises in its ranking of destinations with the greatest potential for medical travel. The major surprise is that France, a country that does not heavily promote medical tourism, comes out ahead of destinations that do.
India, Singapore ranked low
India and Singapore, for example, are ranked 15th and 16th, respectively. Yet both countries actively market medical travel.
India and Singapore also are listed below China, which is seen by the medical travel industry as a major source nation for medical travelers, especially for travel to Taiwan, which is ranked fourth among medical travel destinations.
Mexico is ranked second, reflecting that country’s presidential mandate to develop medical travel. However, the report noted that Mexico’s business environment will likely hold back growth.
The Medical Tourism Index, part of a report called “Traveling for Health: The Potential for Medical Tourism,” aims to demonstrate which destinations have the most potential. The rankings are based on quality of care and aftercare, costs, tourism appeal, and familiarity among medical travelers.
Weighs costs, economic conditions
The Index rankings, which fly in the face of the industry’s accepted wisdom about leading medical travel destinations, combine three sets of analyses.
One ranking measures the strength of a country’s healthcare system; a second factors in economic conditions for developing medical travel, and the third ranks healthcare costs.
“Patients, payers and their advisers will gather specific information on the costs, risks, logistics and expertise involved in securing a particular treatment in a particular group of countries,” stated the report.
“The best destination is likely to depend on the patient’s home country and treatment needs, as well as less tangible cultural factors.”
The Economist acknowledged that France “only has a small medical tourism industry at present, but clearly has the specialist care and the business environment to expand.” It added that high costs may be a deterrent.
The report also noted that much of the same criteria applies to third-ranked U.S. and sixth-ranked Germany.
It also stated that China’s relatively high ranking (14th) may be misleading, because its high number of doctors “conceals some poor training.”
While developed countries dominate the Index, the report noted that “a significant number of developing countries offer the right combination of low costs and medical expertise to make it onto our list.”
Factors driving growth
Several trends are converging to fuel medical travel’s growth potential, the report noted. It cites low costs and medical expertise as the main drivers, especially for travel from developed countries.
The Internet, lower air fares, trade liberalization, and the internationalization of both the healthcare workforce and healthcare training are also contributing to medical travel’s growth potential, according to The Economist.