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When Did Medical Tourism Begin?

When Did Medical Tourism Begin

When Did Medical Tourism BeginYou might be surprised to know that medical tourism is not a new phenomenon. In fact, archaeological evidence from the third millennium B.C. suggests that ancient Mesopotamians traveled to the temple of a healing god or goddess at Tell Brak, Syria, in search of a cure for eye disorders. A few thousand years later the Greeks and Romans would travel by foot or ship to spas and cult centers all around the Mediterranean. The Asclepia Temples, dedicated in honor of the Greek god of medicine, were some of the world’s first health centers. Pilgrims would sometimes spend several nights in the temple, hoping Asclepios would appear in a dream and suggest a diagnosis or treatment.

Later in the 16th and 17th centuries, spa towns such as St. Moritz and Bath became prime destinations for the European upper classes looking to soothe their ills. More recently, the wealthier citizens of underdeveloped nations have begun traveling to renowned medical institutions in the United States or Europe, usually for invasive medical procedures such as open heart surgery or cancer treatments that require a high degree of specialization and experience.

Over the last fifteen years, however, the trend has reversed itself as increasing numbers of patients have begun traveling from developed nations such as the United States and Canada to so-called “underdeveloped” nations in search of affordable medical care or treatment options not available at home. Most media attention has focused on patients traveling for what are referred to as “elective” procedures such as plastic surgery or dental. However, a growing number of patients are traveling for more acute care procedures such as open heart surgery, spinal procedures or hip and knee replacements.

In 2009, The Deloitte Center for Health Care Solutions, a U.S. based consulting company, predicted a 35 percent increase in medical travel over the next several years, including an expected 1.6 million Americans traveling for medical care in 2012. The same report predicts growth of up to 561,000 inbound medical travelers to the United States by 2017.

"Archaeological evidence from the third millennium B.C. suggests that ancient Mesopotamians traveled to the temple of a healing god or goddess at Tell Brak, Syria, in search of a cure for eye disorders."

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