How Big is the Medical Tourism Industry? Part 3: Who are the medical tourists?

_71598706_020257279-1Who are these people?

Another question that keeps coming up … and there is no agreement as to the answer on this one either. In part 3 of this series, we review who are the people who get counted as medical tourists, and who counts them.

We have selected four countries to demonstrate how crazy the numbers can become. Not that these countries’ numbers are more or less accurate than for other countries – it’s just that the examples below are current and striking. Anyone delving deeper into these numbers will find a rich treasure trove of contradictory data.

Counting medical tourists in Jordan

jordanSome of the reported numbers have very interesting origins and reflect the imprecise nature of internet “journalism.”

Jordan provides a useful example of this. In May 2014, Jordan’s prime minister said that the country’s hospitals had treated 250,000 non-Jordanians in 2013.

This means that 250,000 patients presented foreign passports at the time of treatment.

This data later appeared on the internet as 250,000 medical tourists having visited Jordan for treatment in 2013.

Counting medical tourists in Korea

exhibition-in-singapore-korea-hospitalsSimilarly, reports of medical tourism in Korea describe, on the one hand, 82,000 foreign patients that traveled to Korea for treatment.

But these same 82,000 were described in other reports as the number of non-Korean patients treated in Korean medical facilities.

A Korean government agency has said it expected 300,000 medical tourists in 2015, while another Korean government agency said it believed 600,000 medical tourists would come to Korea in 2015.

Counting medical tourists in Turkey

img_9055Turkey is not alone in having several organizations and government agencies presenting “official” numbers for the size of the medical tourism industry.

The International Medical Travel Journal last year called into question the varying data that describes the size of the medical tourism industry in Turkey.

IMTJ wrote:

The (associations), banks, the Turkish Statistical Institute, the health and tourism ministries and private hospital figures have always offered completely different figures on medical tourism in Turkey.

Counting medical tourists in Thailand

wattanosoth-cancer-hospital-resizedA few years ago, IMTJ did an excellent piece of reporting about Thailand medical tourism that demonstrates how collections of facts turn into “netfacts” (no such word, but there should be) when medical tourists get counted.

IMTJ wrote:

If nothing else, the Thailand medical tourism numbers shows us the dangers of relying on “internet fact” where estimates become reality and international patients are miraculously transformed into medical tourists.

Both IMTJ reports deserve a closer look by anyone in business, government or health care who makes medical tourism a part of their economic or business planning, or strategic development and needs to know how much the medical tourism industry might be worth to their community, facility or business.

Part 1: What is the value of the medical tourism industry? How large will it grow?

Part 2: How many medical tourists are there?

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