It is estimated that 11 million people worldwide have travelled or are planning to travel abroad to seek medical care, and that number is increasing. ‘Medical Tourism’, as it has come to be known, has surged in recent years, and is believed to be growing at a pace of 15 to 25 per cent annually. Countries that are promoting medical tourism regard it as a means to develop their economies, earn foreign currencies and improve their own health care facilities. Canada, however, has been reticent to promote itself as a medical tourism destination. At present, more Canadians travel abroad for medical treatment (spending $447 million in 2013) than foreign visitors who come to Canada for health care (earning us $150 million the same year).
So should Canada jump on this growing trend? We will not know unless we experiment. Cautious and careful experimentation with medical tourism in Canada can allow us to learn whether it creates a plus or becomes a minus for our public health system -- and adjust our public policies accordingly.
Join Ronald Labonté, co-author of a new research report for The Conference Board of Canada's Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care, for a discussion about the potential, and the risks, of medical tourism in Canada. Ronald will discuss whether our health system can do so without compromising access for Canadians, and if we can generate substantial revenues for cross-subsidization of public health without creating burdensome administrative costs.
Interested in more detail on the potential of Medical Tourism? Check out our report - Should Canada's Hospitals Open Their Doors to Medical Tourists?