There are many suggestions that international medical travel comes with a wide array of benefits to the destination location. The list of benefits includes the foreign currency spent by the medical traveler, as well as his or her accompanying guests, the healthcare sector employment, advances in treatments and technology in the host location, medical and healthcare staff retention resulting from increased practice opportunities and the enhanced brand of the destination location. This list of benefits are derived from the tourism research and data showing the economic and other benefits associated with increased travel to a particular destination. The allure of these benefits is so compelling to some countries, that they make significant national commitments to develop themselves as destinations for international dental, medical and wellness travelers.
But there is evidence that these benefits are slow to materialize, if they come at all, and among the countries which are successful in establishing themselves as destinations, reliable evidence seems difficult to derive, and even more difficult to infer to, or associated with another destination.
In a WHO sponsored analysis of the effects of medical tourism in Thailand, the authors concluded that while there were economic benefits to medical travel, the negative effects were decreased access to local populations and increased private pay costs. Yet the recent “Inside Man” television feature focused on the “win-win” perspective of medical travel to that destination.
In the Caribbean, many efforts have resulted in precious little gains, with researchers such as John Connell questioning overall value of the undertaking. And in Europe, an OECD report led by Prof. Neil Hunt
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-medical-tourism-isnt-fair-countries.htmlclearly showed that there are significant considerations – both positive and negative – to destinations seeking to develop themselves as medical travel hosts.
So the proverbial “Field of dreams” question persists: “If you build it will they come?” And, equally importantly, if they do come is that okay? Ambition and dreams are at the source of every great accomplishment. But hope is not a strategy, and it certainly isn’t a substitute for good planning and careful analysis.