When Did Medical Tourism Begin?
You 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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