The History and Spread of Medical Tourism
Posted by Dr. Santiago Hernandez, September 9, 2015
Medical tourists’ affinity towards medical treatments in foreign countries is nothing new, as it has been around for ages. The Sumerians, the Ancient Romans, the Greek all built sanctuaries and temples, believing that the places helped heal people. The sanctuaries were located far and they would travel in groups to reap its benefits.
Looking back, it is evident that medical tourism did indeed exist, but the action of traveling miles to reach a place was not given a name, until now. It intrigued people’s interest, especially amongst researchers. They began to trace back the history of medical tourism and uncovered that its origins lied in Europe, South America, and Asia. Have a look at the beginnings of medical tourism in each region:
In Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the elite class held a strong belief that sea air and seawater contained medicinal healing powers. Spas begin to open up in different areas of Europe with people coming from the entire world to visit it. People visited the spas to cure various ailments such as poor digestion, skin infections, and rheumatism.
Japan saw a boom in the medical tourism sector when they revealed that their springs had healing powers taken from its mineral content. Japanese warriors took baths in the spring, using it to alleviate pain, heal wounds, and recover from battles. While Japan attracted medical travelers with their springs, India did the same with Ayurvedic medicine and yoga.
Five thousand years ago, India’s tourism economy flourished, as it saw a flurry of medical travelers coming to their country to seek alternative methods of healing. It garnered the reputation of a country acclaimed for it medicinal, cultural, and spiritual progress.
People traveled to parts of South America in search of alternative medical treatments, but with time, the alternative medical treatments were replaced by proper medical facilities and qualified doctors.
However, in some parts of South America, alternative treatments are still offered. Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Brazil are regarded as the top South American countries for medical treatments. The largest population to come to Mexico is Americans, out of 12 million people 6.5 million were Americans.
Medical Tourism Now
In 2014, it was estimated that the number of medical travelers would increase to 1.25 million, as people will continue to seek cost-effective means to obtain medical procedures such as bypass surgery, face-lifts, and fertility treatments. Moreover, insurance companies have begun to offer coverage to people for emergency surgeries abroad.
Medical tourist destinations are expected to see a growth in the number of medical travelers each year. The medical tourism industry is on the rise with approximately 3% of the world’s population traveling to other countries for different treatments. What is even more impressive is that the medical tourism industry is generating $40 billion each year.
The medical tourism industry has opened new doors for people that cannot afford to pay for their medical treatments in their own country.