Medical Tourism Sector Yet to Reach its Full Potential

Medical Tourism Sector Yet to Reach its Full Potential
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Published July 29th, 2010 - 10:05 GMT

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A survey published today by a prominent UAE-based health travel consultant has revealed that 94% of medical tourism industry insiders believe their sector of the industry has yet to reach its full potential. The report, which can be viewed on-line at www.DrPrem.com, shows that confusion, a lack of information and fear about complications following surgery are the main reasons for patient reluctance to cross international borders for health services. The findings are particularly significant for the region, as the UAE appears at number 11 for countries identified with medical tourism.

"The medical tourism industry is going through an exciting phase where international and intra-regional activities are taking places within this sector of the health market," said Dr. Prem Jagyasi, architect of the survey and an experienced consultant in the healthcare travel sector. "The responses received clearly revealed that there is an overwhelming perception among industry leaders that there is so much more that can be achieved," he added.

The purpose of the health tourism survey, according to Dr. Jagyasi, was to gain valuable insights into aspects of medical tourism from professionals who are closely involved with the industry. Ninety-five per cent of the survey's participants identified themselves as being either directly or indirectly involved with healthcare travel in the scope of their work and the resulting information supplied by these insiders revealed many important facts concerning this specialised sector; including its terms, trends, status, opportunities and challenges. The knowledge gleaned from the survey will be used to promote this sector of the healthcare industry and will provide important content for a soon-to-be published guidebook for consumers who are considering undertaking treatment abroad.

"One of the survey questions enquired why the respondents thought that there may be a reluctance in some consumers to participate in healthcare tourism and the main responses we received were that they may have concerns about complications, experience confusion over aspects of available services, be uninformed and find the option complicated," said Dr. Jagyasi. "This is important information, as it clearly shows that education is a vital component in allowing us to facilitate medical tourism to reach its greatest potential. If we can allay people's fears about foreign treatments and guide potential health tourists with information and advice on visa and travel issues, then we will be providing a vital service for them, as well as giving a welcome boost to the region's health sector," he added.

Of the 35 countries identified in the survey as being significant healthcare tourism providers, India was ranked as the number one popular destination, with Thailand and Singapore positioned at second and third places respectively. The United States had a surprise ranking at number four and the UAE came in at number 11. "The Asian and Far Eastern countries are well-established medical tourism destinations, so the top three placings were expected," said Dr. Jagyasi. "The United States came in at number four, which wasn't anticipated. It could mean that there are as yet untapped opportunities for facilitators looking to incorporate this potentially lucrative market in their service provision," he added.

The medical tourism survey was conducted on-line and contained questions that had been developed over a six month period and based on intensive research. The qualitative assessment was sent to medical tourism professionals in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Gulf regions, Asia and the Far East. It found that medical tourism facilitators are in a prime position to capitalise on the promising opportunities offered by this sector of the health market; with 88% of respondents agreeing that role of facilitator – those agencies providing health-related travel services – are either important or very important in this segment.

Dr. Jagyasi's medical tourism guidebook is due to be published later this year and he has high hopes that it will become a handy reference tool for those wanting to know more about the intricacies of travelling across borders for healthcare services. The publication is the latest achievement in his specialist interest in medical tourism and he has visited more than 20 countries and spoken at 30 international congresses relating to this sector of the healthcare industry. "Medical tourism can offer huge benefits in terms of quality of service and its affordability, in fact, the survey revealed that industry leaders view these as being its key drivers," he said. "The industry is set to grow enormously over the next two decades as more and more destinations open up to patients from overseas," he added. 

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