Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Medical Tourism: Why does same treatment cost different in other countries?

Why is Medical Tourism so much plebeian now?

Medical Tourism, in last few decades, has become quite conversant with households. Many people, citing amended healthcare, better availability of medical facilities and leisurely access to them travel to other countries for receiving medical treatment. Also, some treatments may be unavailable and some may not be legal in one’s cradle and the individual could opt for the treatment to be done abroad. Other factors which have led to the step-up of medical travel numbers are improvements in technology as well as standards of care in foreign countries. Specific treatments involve long waiting time, which adds to the anomaly.
  • Among all these citations, affordability of the medical facilities stands out as the chief reason for people to travel to other countries to receive treatment for their maladies.

    But eventually, this statement has been proved wrong to some extent by some facts in a report by McKinsey & Co. back in May 2008. The Report revealed the main reason for medical travel by people was to seek advanced technology, better and quicker healthcare facilities. Seeking lower costs was revealed as a minor reason by the report. Still, reduced treatment cost is one of the factors which promotes Medical Tourism.

Principal reasons besides ‘Cheap Medical Treatment Costs in Developing Countries
  • In the US, the prominent reason for medical tourism for the natives is cheaper prices abroad. Mexico is the natives’ favorite destination since it offers big savings for dental and cosmetic surgeries and also due to its close proximity to the US.
  • India has become a medical tourism hotspot in recent years, thanks to the panels of highly skilled doctors employed in varied medical institutions around the country and medical infrastructure which is improving each day.

So, why do same treatments differ so much in cost in different countries?

  1. One of the reasons for cheaper treatment costs in some countries is lower wages for employees than in the other countries.

    For example, wages in India are significantly lower than in the U.S. and hence treatment for a specific ailment costs less in India. But U.S. spends much more than India per capita on health care.

    In order to reach the masses in need of care, hospitals in countries like India create hubs in metropolitan areas and open smaller clinics in rural and distant areas which feed patients to the main hospital. This network cuts the costs by concentrating the most expensive equipment and expertise in the hub and not in every village. By contrast, hospitals in countries like U.S. are uncoordinated and they duplicate care in many places without high enough volume in any one of them to make the procedure affordable.

  2. Other reason could be Task Handling. Hospitals in countries like India transfer common routine tasks to lower-skilled workers which mostly include interns. This leaves the experts to handle the most sensitive and toughest procedures. Doctors in these countries are extremely productive – performing many operations in a day, unlike other countries like U.S.

    Also, hospitals in many countries have developed local devices such as stents which cost almost one-tenth the price of imported devices. Apart from this, doctors here are paid fixed salaries, irrespective of how many procedures they have performed for the day or the month.
The high cost of medical treatments in some countries is because of too much investment done on healthcare and also on the Infrastructure. But by mass production, many doctors and hospitals have discovered the best way to cut costs and also delivering world-class facilities in health care.

Written by Mayank Sharma
A third year Engineering student at Delhi Technological University. An avid tennis fan and a die hard fan of Roger Federer. Loves writing articles on Tennis and developing Web pages.

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