Medical travel is projected to expand globally in the next decade. Citizens in the United States of America, for instance, already receive significant volumes of services abroad. The growth in medical travel is largely due to improved availability of health technology, decreasing costs for travel and advertising by companies wishing to attract patients. Medical tourism has been described as “travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment.
There are considerable gaps in the current literature concerning the extent to which international health services are consumed and the needs of medical travellers are met. We suggest three key domains (quality standards, informed decision-making, economic and legal protection) for which scientific evidence would support the development of medical travel policies.
To establish international quality standards, definitions and comparable indicators should be established, with oversight from a major international body.
More data on patient decision-making needs to be collected to ensure the practical value of any evidence generated on medical travel. The drivers and barriers that precede medical travel need to be assessed beyond general economic and availability factors.
To prevent harm, legal and economic frameworks for medical travel are needed. Existing governance structures and legal frameworks on treatment and care standards need to be harmonized and international quality standards need to be enforced and maintained.
Effective research in medical travel as a global phenomenon requires consideration of all three domains, with the overall goal of improving access, quality of care, and health equity.
Source: Bulletin of the World Health Organization