Health Tourism

Patient travellers seek to alleviate high cost of healthcare

Health tourism, also referred to as medical tourism or medical travel, is the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to major medical centres in developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities. However, the recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third world countries for medical treatments because the cost of treatment is lower, though the traditional pattern still continues.

Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many developing countries. The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism from the UK, whereas in the US, the main reason is cheaper prices abroad.

Many surgery procedures performed in medical tourism destinations cost a fraction of the price they do in the Economically Advanced countries. For example, a liver transplant costs around US$300,000 in the US, but in Taiwan is costs around $91,000, according to a 2010 report in Time magazine. A large draw to medical travel is convenience and speed. Countries that operate public healthcare systems are often so overburdened that it can take considerable time to get non-urgent medical care. In Canada for example, an estimated 782,936 Canadians spent time on medical waiting lists in 2005, waiting an average of 9.4 weeks, according to a 2005 report by the Fraser Institute.


To facilitate and attract foreign patients, there is a growing move by hospitals to get International Healthcare Accreditation. In response to this marketing opportunity, some national accreditation groups – such as the Joint Commission in the US – have expanded their wings internationally (establishing for example, Joint Commission International – JCI), and gone on to survey and accredit hospitals outside of their own national borders. These groups now, in essence, provide “international healthcare accreditation”.

Accreditation systems are structured so as to provide objective measures for the external evaluation of quality and quality management. Accreditation schemes ideally focus primarily on the patient and their pathway through the healthcare system – this includes how they access care, how they are cared for after discharge from hospital, and the quality of the services provided for them. At the heart of these schemes is a list of standards which, ideally, serve to assess evaluate in a systematic and comprehensive way the standards of professional performance in a hospital. This includes not only hands-on patient care but also training and education of staff, credentials, clinical governance and audit, research activity, ethical standards etc. The standards can also be used internally by hospitals to develop and improve their quality standards and quality management. Some international accreditation schemes believe that the standards applied should be fixed and are non-negotiable, while others operate a system of negotiation over standards – however, whatever approach is taken the every aspect of the process should be evidence-based.

The International Society for Quality in Health Care ISQua - – is an umbrella organisation for such organisations providing international healthcare accreditation. Its offices are based in the Republic of Ireland. ISQua is a small nonprofit limited company with members in over 70 countries. ISQua works to provide services to guide health professionals, providers, researchers, agencies, policy makers and consumers, to achieve excellence in healthcare delivery to all people, and to continuously improve the quality and safety of care. ISQua does not actually survey or accredit hospitals or clinics itself.

The process for seeking treatment abroad

The typical process is as follows: the person seeking medical treatment abroad contacts a medical tourism provider. The provider usually requires the patient to provide a medical report, including the nature of ailment, local doctor’s opinion, medical history, and diagnosis, and may request additional information. Certified physicians or consultants then advise on the medical treatment. The approximate expenditure, choice of hospitals and tourist destinations, and duration of stay, etc., is discussed. After signing consent bonds and agreements, the patient is given recommendation letters for a medical visa, to be procured from the concerned embassy. The patient travels to the destination country, where the medical tourism provider assigns a case executive, who takes care of the patient’s accommodation, treatment and any other form of care. Once the treatment is done, the patient can remain in the tourist destination or return home.

Turkish company offers free flights for foreign patients

In Turkey, one of the country’s leading medical tourism companies is offering foreign patients free economy class return flights in an effort to stay one step ahead of their competitors in what is now becoming a very competitive field.

Longevita, with a footprint across 20 private hospitals in Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya, is offering free economy class return flights for international patients seeking surgery in Turkey. Patients also get no obligation free video consultation with their surgeons on Skype prior to making a decision on their medical travel.

Mustafa Temiz, the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Longevita, told Middle East Health, the company works with hospitals that are accredited by international bodies like JCI. He confirmed that the offer is available to patients from the Middle East.

“It is valid for patients from Middle East and already we have had many patients from Middle East who have benefited from the free flight offer,” he said. “Our patients are mostly from UK, Europe and Middle East.

In addition to these regions we have patients form USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Ghana,” Temiz added. Authorized by the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Economy, Longevita’s free flights campaign contributes to the Turkish Government’s efforts in promoting medical travel to Turkey.

Demand for medical treatment abroad is growing rapidly and medical travel is becoming more and more popular around the globe. Turkey is one of the most visited destinations by patients in Europe and the Middle East. Every month, thousands visit Turkey for private surgery to benefit from affordable prices, high quality hospitals, and US or European board certified surgeons.

Temiz pointed out that having medical treatment abroad has many advantages. l Firstly from a cost perspective, the package price of private medical treatment, flights and accommodation is much lower than the stand-alone surgery price in the Western world. Patients going to Turkey for surgery save from 30% up to 80% on costs.

- Secondly, patients going to Turkey do not need to put up with the long waiting lists of hospitals in the UK or Europe.

- Thirdly, Turkey has the highest number of JCI accredited hospitals in the world and the quality of the medical treatments are on par with the quality in Western countries, if not better. Facilities are new and equipped with cutting- edge technology.

- Turkey has a lot of surgeons certified by international associations. Medical doctors start seeing patients very early in their medical career in Turkey, therefore they are more experienced than most of their European counterparts.

“Longevita provides an easy gateway to these advantages of medical treatment in Turkey.”

Ozgur Taskaya, Medical Travel Coordinator at Longevita noted in regards to Longevita’s free flights packages: “We are proud to be the first and the only company offering free flights to international patients seeking hair transplantation, cosmetic surgery, dentistry and eye surgery in Turkey. Wherever our patients are in the world, they may benefit from Longevita’s all-inclusive medical treatment packages covering the cost of their economy class return flights from their country to Turkey. All they need to do is contact Longevita to make a booking for their treatment. Longevita patients may do a no obligation free video consultation with their doctors prior to booking their medical treatment.

“Our patients may have their hair transplantation for €2,100, breast enlargement for €2,950 and nose surgery for €2,550 including all their medical expenses, return flights, accommodation and breakfast, airport transfers, and an English speaking host. We facilitate a wide range of other medical procedures for our patients as well.”

 Date of upload: 12th May 2014


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