medical tourism definition and forms of medical travels
Definition of medical tourism
April 9, 2016

Pros and cons of medical tourism

pros and cons of medical tourism

You may consider travelling abroad to obtain medical service. First, you have to think carefully if it is a good option for you. Here are the general pros and cons of medical tourism which may help you make the right decision.



The most important argument for travelling abroad for medical purposes. Of course to the cost of the procedure itself, the cost of the flight, hotel etc. should be added. Taking into account all of the costs, the customer from eg. Western Europe may save up to 70% by undergoing the procedure in one of the countries of Central or Eastern Europe.

Access to procedures not available in a home country

Rarely medical tourists travel to more developed countries in order to get a better quality or a rare medical procedure/treatment. The journey of this type can emphasize socio-economic status of the tourist. Medical tourists can also get access to procedures illegal in their home country.


It is a misconception that healthcare in poorer countries cannot be as good as in wealthier countries. Many clinics in economically underdeveloped countries offer high quality healthcare and have highly skilled doctors and nurses, who were trained overseas. Many medical facilities have international accreditation and certificates proving high quality of their service. Of course you have to carefully choose the clinic, because quality of the facilities abroad is highly variable.
See more: Why is it so cheap abroad?

Quicker access to the medical procedure

Many clinics offer no queues, no waiting list for clients from abroad. It allows arrangment of medical procedure for a mutually suitable time.

Service of medical tourist faciliator

Medical tourist faciliator is an intermediary who handles medical tourists by providing assistance at every stage of planning, during stay and during postoperative care. As a result, the patients don’t have to settle any formalities. The help of a medical tourist faciliator reduces language and cultural barriers in a foreign country. The patient usually can contact the intermediary at any hour during the stay. Often, the service of medical tourist faciliator is not extra paid.


Medical tourists can have a (mini) vacation during their stay in the foreign country. Medical tourism gives the patient (and his companion) a chance to explore the country/city of stay, foreign culture, cuisine. Sometimes a medical tourist faciliator offers help in sightseeing in the city, booking visits in museums or stay in wellness/spa etc. Many types of aesthetic medicine or dentistry procedures don’t limit patients mobility so they can fully make use of tourist attractions.


Language barrier

It happens that staff in a medical clinic in a foreign country have poor English skills. It can complicate communication and siginificantly lower quality of received healthcare.

Limited access to information about the choosen clinic

Medical tourists often choose the clinic abroad based on the reviews on the internet and content of clinic’s website. It is difficult to find a large number of reviews on a certain clinic available for foreign patients. You can find forums devoted to plastic surgeries in many countries, but the language barrier often makes them useless for foreigners. Medical tourists are also unable to get a large number of reviews from their friends, family. Usually there is no possibility to visit the clinic before the medical procedure. There is a risk of receiving lower quality care than declared on the webpage or in an ad.

Lack of competence of the medical tourist faciliator

It may happen that the intermediary is not liable. Sometimes patients are not satisfied with booked rooms in a hotel (eg. the price, location). It happens that the faciliator is not interested in the patient during his stay or worse, eg. didn’t book visits, surgery.

Lack of postoperative care after returning to home country

After arriving home, post-operative care, complications and side-effects may become the responsibility of the healhtcare system in the home country. Moreover patients may encounter problems accessing adequate healthcare, because doctors feel uncomfortable dealing with complications in patients who had surgery performed abroad (not by them). Sometimes patients have to travel back to the clinic where surgery was performed to get medical help.

Going back home after surgery

Travelling after surgery may be painful and difficult. Coming home by plane can be potentially dangerous, because it can lead to a deep vein thrombosis. Despite that, there are no published cases of medical tourism related thrombosis.

Risk of infection

Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that there were cases of infections among medical tourists caused by antibiotic- resistant strains of bacteria (never previously seen in the US). There was also the case in the UK of a medical tourist who came back from India infected by hepatitis B virus during a medical procedure. Patients should be aware of the risk of infection and carefully choose the offer.

Being away from home and family

The medical procedures, especially surgeries are stressfull experiences. Being far away from home and family may exacerbate the stress and make this vulnerable time even more difficult.

See more: Medical tourism facts and statistics, click here

1. Neil Lunt, Richard Smith, Mark Exworthy, Stephen T. Green, Daniel Horsfall and Russell Mannion. Medical Tourism: Treatments, Markets and Health System Implications: A scoping review. OECD
2. Adrian P. Lubowiecki- Vikuk. Medical tourism as a form of manifestation of contemporary trends and tendencies in tourism. Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego Ekonomiczne Problemy Usług. 2012; 699(84):553-568.
3. Jolanta Rab- Przybyłowicz. Produkt turystyki medycznej. Difin. Warszawa 2014
4. CDC. The Pre-Travel Consultation Counseling & Advice for Travelers. Yellow book.
5. Harling R, Turbitt D, Millar M, Ushiro-Lumb I, Lacey S, Xavier G, Pope J, Ijaz S, Teo CG.Passage from India: an outbreak of hepatitis B linked to a patient who acquired infection from health care overseas.Public Health. 2007 Oct;121(10):734-41.


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