Posted on 08/10/2010
Around 50,000 Britons travel abroad for private treatment
Medical tourism is going under the microscope in a major new study by clinicians, health economists and researchers, including Dr Mark Exworthy of the School of Management at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The study, which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research and led by York University, will examine the motives people have for travelling abroad to receive medical treatments such as dental services, elective surgery for hip or joint replacement, cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment.
Medical tourism is currently mainly privately funded and the researchers will seek to establish the amount people are paying for this healthcare and its economic impact. They will also examine the consequences for the NHS that treatments in other countries might bring. They will look at the potential savings and negative impacts on the NHS, such as the need to ensure continuity of care for people who have been treated abroad and the cost of treating complications. The research will also examine the inflow of patients from abroad into the UK health system.
"With about 50,000 Britons travelling abroad for treatment and paying for such health-care, medical tourism is a significant development which represents both commercialisation and internationalisation of health-care that the UK has not seen before”, says Dr Exworthy.
The study will explore how patients make their decisions concerning treatments and destinations, what information they use, such as websites, friends, internet chat rooms, and how informed their choices are. Patients will also be asked about their experiences of treatment abroad.
The research team includes Dr Mark Exworthy of the School of Management at Royal Holloway, University of London; Professor Stephen T Green of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust; Professor Russell Mannion of the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham; and Professor Richard Smith, of the Department of Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.