Top 5 healthcare destinations in the world. Is Italy among those?

Medical Tourism is a phenomenon that involves 11 to 14 million people worldwide generating a turnover around 150 billion dollars. Baby boomers (between 45 to 64 years old) are the largest group involved.

Thailand paved the way 15 years ago, with the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok that became a centre of medical excellence. Now it attracts 400,000 foreign patients each year.

The reasons

There are many reasons why people choose to search for a cure abroad. The top ones are:
To receive better treatments: people looks for quality and high standard services. A JCI (Joint Commission International) accreditation can make the difference in order to receive the best care as possible. State-of-the art treatments and the latest technologies may not be available in patients’ country of origin.
For cost savings: in some cases this may be the main reason for traveling abroad in search for a cure. Sometimes the price of a treatment may be 50% less expensive in a foreign country.
For treatments not available in the country of origin / lack of quality: people sometimes must go abroad to receive appropriate treatments that simply are not available in their country. So they look for treatments from top professionals doctors and surgeon with an international background.
Too long waiting lists: if a patient has an urgent need to be treated, depending on the seriousness of his disease, he may decide to go abroad if the waiting lists in his/her country of origin are too long.
Opportunity to Travel Abroad: sometimes, in particular when the disease is not severe, health tourism it is also seen as an opportunity to travel abroad and visit other countries.

The Destinations

Regarding the top Healthcare destinations there are different charts and market researches where top countries always appear in the ranking but in different positions.
For example according to the last research by Global Healthcare Resources the top destinations are: Thailand with 1,2 million inbound patients each year, Mexico (1 million), Malaysia (850,000), USA (800,000), Singapore (610,000) and India 400,000.

According to a study by the Medical Tourism Association among the countries that provide the best medical care for international patients are (in addition to the already mentioned India, Thailand and Singapore):  South Korea has experienced a rapid growth in medical travel especially for cosmetic surgery. Costa Rica: this country is not only famous for its wonderful tourist attraction but also for having the state-of-the-art healthcare technology. Germany has excellent medical professionals, technologies and some the most advanced medical facilities in the world. United Arab Emirates gathers many international qualified professionals and it is becoming one of the favorite destinations in the world for medical tourism.
Another top destination for patients looking for cheap treatments is Brazil. In particular it is well known worldwide for cosmetic surgery. According to Patients Beyond Borders, about 200,000 foreign travellers went to Brazil last year, for this kind of treatments that cost around 30-50 percent less that in USA for example.

But if you look at international outbound travels for health reasons in general, there is an interesting research from World Travel Monitor conducted by IPK International and commissioned by ITB Berlin. This study found out that 70% of international outbound travels for health-oriented reasons have been made for wellness and spa holidays, while only 30% has been made for more serious medical purposes (such as cure, rehabilitation and hspitalization). From this perspective, Germany can boast more than 1 million foreign health and medical trips and tops the chart followed in Europe by Russia, France and Italy.

So what about Italy?

First of all we have to remember that Italy is the healthiest country in the world according to Bloomberg and has the second best Healthcare system in the world according to W.H.O.
Italy is not yet considered a top health tourism destination in the public imagination although it has all the numbers and right credentials to be the next world’s leading medical tourism destination.
Not many know that Italy features state of the art medical facilities, technologies and know how, that can undoubtedly compete with, if not even exceed, the best healthcare providers in the world. Italy among its 1400 hospitals has 600 private hospitals, 48 research hospitals and 18 JCI accredited Hospitals. 1 billion euros is invested in innovation and research each year, while 700,000 foreign patients are treated each year in the country. So we can say that Italy has a wide experience in dealing with people from different cultures.
To promote Italy as an international medical travel destination, Destination Health has created ItalyCares, the first network that gathers the best Italian healthcare providers. ItalyCares members can offer: State-of-the-art treatments and technologies, International-level Research and care Hospitals, Advanced diagnostic, The most experienced professionals in the world and Education and training.
The first mission of ItalyCares will be in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where a group of top Italian hospitals will have the chance to attend several meeting at governmental level to create links with the decision makers defining Medical Patients flows abroad. This is the first step to promote Italy as an affordable and reliable top level destination for international patients from all over the world.

1 Comment

  • I am an individual professional / healthcare provider (colorectal surgeon / proctologist), and I perform a special minimally invasive surgery for a certain condition. I am one of the few in the world, and, as a consequence, I have been operating on patients seeking this minimally invasive procedures originating from all of Italy and from many countries worldwide, including (but not limited to): USA, Australia, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, Norway, Russia, China, etc. One of the main issues here is the language. I am fluent in English (I am Italian-Irish and I have been working for many years in Ireland), yet, most people in the private clinic around me here in Italy (nurses, clerical staff, other doctors) do not have any command of the English language. As a consequence, I have to liaise with my foreign patients very closely, in order to make them feel very well looked after. While this issue (language barrier, little command of the English language) maybe contributes to direct more foreign patients to me (rather than to other colleagues), I see this as a very negative factor in order to increase the turnout of Medical Tourism in Italy.

    Luigi Basso 29.11.2017

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