The development of globalization has wide-ranging impacts on medical tourism. According to Cockerham & Cockerham (2010) “globalization has fostered a rise in medical tourism, which refers to patients in one part of the world travelling to another part in order to obtain medical treatment”. (p29) The world has become a global market place and people are now able to use modern technology to seek alternative affordable and high quality health treatment elsewhere in the world. A friend of my father in Australia has suffered knee pain for years and the pain was getting worse.
He did a lot of research on the internet and eventually had the knee surgery done in India. He recovered very well and said it was a big but right decision he has made in life. At that time, I just couldn’t understand and asked myself, “Why this man had to fly all the way to India rather than having the surgery done in Australia, which is his home county and more developed than India”. I concluded that it must have been a decision this man has made and this is his choice. By now, I am studying Bachelor of Nursing and realised my previous understanding was very individualized. Individual’s behaviour is influenced by the social environment.
In that man’s case, he was a working class people at his early 50’s and had no private health insurance. He would have to wait for long time to get the surgery done under Medicare or had to pay expensive cost to jump in the queue and have it done privately. This would have driven him to seek other options. Thanks to the advanced technology, he did a lot of the research on the internet and found the alternative in India. Thinking of my own experience, I have moved to Australia five years ago and personally found seeing doctors and having treatment sometimes are very frustrating experience.
In order to have some procedure done, I firstly need to go through GP to receive a reference letter. I then need to book appointment with the specialist. It wouldn’t take too long to see the specialist but certainly would have to wait for the procedure. The waiting time could be weeks or years without private health insurance. In addition, different medical tests and results all takes time. For some dental procedures which are not covered under Medicare or private insurance, the price is skyrocketing. This year, I have spent $8000 on my dental crowns which would only cost $1000 if I had it done in China.
I related the experience of the friend and my own to the group of people who may be facing the same problems, high cost or long waiting list. I believe that these people would certainly seek other alternative health care treatments which are more affordable with high quality In order for me to better understanding the issue of medical tourism, I have read through the lecture notes and other reading material. Medical tourism has its original form for decades until today. medical tourism has developed patterns involved patients from developed countries for less expensive medical treatment in developing country.
After reading the material, I have believed demographic change, issues with existing health care system and globalisation are key drivers. First of all, the demographic revolution particularly the rapid increase of the aging population has put strain on the health care system, which in many cases leads to compromised level of service and decreased access such as long waiting list or high cost. As Poole (as cited in Gemov, 2009,p. 301) pointed out a global demographic transformation is taking place due to significant changes to fertility and mortality rates that affect all aspect of society. Poole (as cited in Gemov, 2009,p. 02) also believed that as hospital use increases with age (after the age of 50), the increased life expectancy of the Australian population will affect both the demand and provision for hospital services. Secondly, I have looked at the existing health care system in Australia and America. In Australia, the health system is mixed with public and private sector. Some dental and cosmetic surgeries are not even covered by private insurance. Only about half of the Australians have private insurance. (Australian department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,2008. ). American system is largely dependent on private insurance.
In 2005, approximately 42 million or 16. 4% of Americans have no insurance. I have asked myself what these people who are uninsured or underinsured would do when facing long waiting list or high medical cost. My answer is they would seek better alternative elsewhere which can better meet their requirement and suit their situation in terms of cost and time. In the global marketplace, medical treatment with lower cost and high quality can be found in other countries such as India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. These countries can offer quality-assured medical care through first class facilities and highly trained medical specialist.
Cockerham & Cockerham suggests that “The time is coming when Western businesses, health insurance companies and governments will outsource medical services to low-cost providers in other parts of the globe in similar way to that in which corporations in other sectors of the economy have already done”. (2010. p21. ) Patients are now able to access to information worldwide and make comparison themselves. Combined with inexpensive travel and low cost telecommunications, patients have found going abroad for medical treatment is an appealing alternative.