Consumers go abroad in pursuit of cost-effective healthcare

July 1, 2006

NATIONAL REPORTS-Medical tourism is a fast-growing movement in which American consumers are choosing to travel outside the country for a variety of healthcare procedures and treatments.

NATIONAL REPORTS-Medical tourism is a fast-growing movement in which American consumers are choosing to travel outside the country for a variety of healthcare procedures and treatments.

"People are going overseas for everything from wellness check-ups and testing to advanced cardiac and orthopedic surgery," says Rudy Rupak, CEO, PlanetHospital Inc., a privately held medical tourism company.

India can discount costs by roughly 80% compared with the cost of similar care in the United States while Thailand can discount costs from 70% to 75%. Patients also go to Central and South America, Europe and South Africa for high-quality and affordable healthcare. "Thailand is popular for cosmetic surgery; India is popular for affordable cardio and orthopedic care and Costa Rica and Mexico are popular for dentistry," Rupak says.

"It's important to remember that Americans are fundamentally smart shoppers and very adept at weighing cost and quality in other arenas in their lives," Johnson says. "Witness the number of people shopping at Costco where you can buy Waterford crystal for less than in a department store.

"Likewise, we know that in healthcare there is wide variation in outcomes for some procedures and very little variation in outcomes with others," she continues. "It is almost inevitable to have consumers now look for the best option in healthcare weighing cost and quality for themselves and their families."

According to Johnson, "We're going to see more risk-and severity-adjusted data provided by overseas providers as they position themselves to compete against American providers. An Orbitz or Expedia for healthcare-once the technical infrastructure has caught up with our drive in consumerism-is a real possibility. And, we'll see the importance of the brand continue to grow."