Medical tourism patients going to a different country for either urgent or elective medical procedures is fast becoming a worldwide, multibillion-dollar industry.
The reasons patients travel for treatment vary. Many medical tourists from North America are seeking treatment at a quarter or sometimes even at a 10th of the cost at home. From Canada, it is often people who are frustrated by long waiting times. From Great Britain, the patient cannot wait for treatment by the National Health Service but also cannot afford to see a physician in private practice. For others, becoming a medical tourist is a chance to combine a tropical vacation with elective or plastic surgery. And more patients are coming from poorer countries such as Bangladesh where treatment may not be available.
Medical tourism is actually thousands of years old. In ancient Greece, pilgrims and patients came from all over the Mediterranean to the sanctuary of the healing god, Asklepios, at Epidaurus. In Roman Britain, patients took the waters at a shrine at Bath, a practice that continued for 2,000 years. From the 18th century wealthy Europeans traveled to spas from Germany to the Nile. In the 21st century, relatively low-cost jet travel has taken the industry beyond the wealthy and desperate. Visiting the dentist:
The newest and fastest-growing area of medical tourism is a visit to the dentist, where costs are often not covered by basic insurance and by only some extended insurance policies. St.-Petersburg, Russia attracts patients who want to combine a filling, extraction or root canal with a vacation.