Medical Tourism

Because of research opportunities on the internet, reduced trade and travel barriers and lower air fare, the world is becoming a more interconnected place. It’s not so connected that one would go to London for work, to Japan for dinner and to New York for a nap. But it is connected enough that people would go to India for a health procedure.

Medical Tourism right now is popular. Patients Beyond Borders estimates there are 8 million cross-border patients worldwide, including 900,000 Americans who travel out the U.S. for treatment. Some people do come to the U.S. if it offers treatment not available in their own countries. The people who leave usually do for common treatments that are cheaper elsewhere. Basically, medical tourism seems to reward specialization and cost-effectiveness, every economist’s dream.

Taking a vacation to another country and getting treatment sounds nice, but there are issues anybody wishing to partake will run into. First, organizations that provide global health care price data tend to be deceptive. Rather than independent research institutions, they’re usually stakeholders who have a vested interest in you traveling outside your country. Second, the standard of care and the skill of doctors from different countries are vastly uneven. Figuring out if a country’s health care providers are good enough for you will be a challenge. Third, there are no overarching legal or ethical norms regulating all these medical procedures around the world. You might be safer staying at home. In sum, it’s information asymmetry, the uncertainty of consumers, that’s stopping the economist’s dream from being a reality.

As a rule of thumb, the best doctors and dentists available to you are here in the U.S.