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Factors affecting medical tourism

Factors affecting medical tourism

This detailed analysis aims to explore the key factors affecting medical tourism. In today’s interconnected world, medical tourism has become a popular choice for those looking for affordable, and high-quality care. While the trend is increasing around the world, the dynamics of medical tourism are complex, with a variety of factors influencing the decision-making process.


What is medical tourism?

According to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (2023) the term medical tourism refers to travel for the purpose of getting medical, dental, or cosmetic treatment. 


According to the Cambridge Dictionary (2023) medical tourism refers to peoples’ travel to a foreign country for medical treatment, especially because it is less expensive than in their own country.



Factors affecting medical tourism

The factors that affect medical tourism are multifaceted and interrelated. These factors play a key role in shaping the industry. Therefore, understanding them can help stakeholders make informed decisions and strategies.


Quality of healthcare services

One of the most critical factors affect medical tourism is the quality of healthcare services. The quality of healthcare services can be assessed in terms of the competence of healthcare professionals, the standard and efficacy of the medical procedures, the accreditation of institutions, and the success rates of treatments.


High-quality healthcare service not only attracts medical tourists but also builds a positive image of the destination country. According to the International Citizen Insurance (2023) some of the top health care destinations are Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Switzerland.


On the contrary, perceived poor service quality can deter potential medical tourists. Jordan, Ukraine, Lebanon, Montenegro, and Guatemala are at the bottom of the ranking in terms of health care quality (International Citizen Insurance, 2023).


Therefore, healthcare institutions must strive to maintain a high standard of care and constantly improve their services to stay competitive in the medical tourism market.


Cost of treatments

Another key factor that influences medical tourism is the cost of treatment. In many developed countries, the cost of healthcare is high, and in some cases, these costs are not entirely covered by insurance. This has led many patients to seek treatments in countries where they can get the same quality of care at a lower cost.


Sultana et al. (2014) report that Asian countries attract more tourists every year as they are less costly compared to the US, and European destinations. The authors also report that tourists could save their money from 40% up to 60% if they visited Asian nations. One of the key factors behind this is the lower cost of labour.


Location and accessibility

Geographical location and accessibility also play a vital role in influencing the decision of medical tourists. Proximity and easy accessibility can make a particular destination more attractive to medical tourists.


For instance, many Americans prefer Latin American countries like Mexico and Costa Rica due to their geographical closeness and short flight times. Similarly, Europeans might choose countries within their continent like Hungary, Poland, or Turkey for the same reasons.


Legal and ethical factors

Many tourists travel abroad for treatments that are forbidden/discouraged in their home country due to legal, ethical, and religious restrictions.


Technological factors

Technology is one of the key factors affecting medical tourism now-a-days. It allows people to research different medical procedures, compare prices, read testimonials from previous patients, and even book appointments with doctors or hospitals in the destination country.


Language barriers

Language barriers can also affect the decision-making process of medical tourists. The ability to communicate effectively with healthcare providers is crucial for patients, particularly when they are in a foreign country.


Restrictive government policies

Government policies play a crucial role in the development of medical tourism in a country. These policies may include visa facilitation, investment in healthcare infrastructure, accreditation of medical facilities, and promotional activities to attract tourists.


A supportive government policy can significantly boost the medical tourism industry of a country. For instance, countries like Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have supportive government policies that have helped them emerge as leading medical tourism destinations.


On the other hand, restrictive policies or lack of government support can hinder the growth of medical tourism. Wichter (2022) reports that it is very hard for foreign visitors to get permission to come to the U.S. due to strict visa requirements and costs.


Tourist attitude

The attitude of tourists towards a particular destination also influences their decision. It can be shaped by various factors such as previous experiences, perceptions about the quality of healthcare, safety and security, cultural familiarity, and recommendations from others.


Destination competitiveness

Destinations that offer a high degree of competitiveness tend to attract more tourists. Therefore, it is crucial for destinations to continuously improve their competitiveness by investing in healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare professionals, easing travel procedures, and improving overall service quality.


Conclusion: Factors affecting medical tourism

It is thus clear that the factors that affect medical tourism are diverse and interrelated. They range from the quality and cost of healthcare services to geographical location, legal and ethical considerations, influence of technology, cultural and language barriers, government policies, tourist attitudes, and destination competitiveness.


Understanding these factors can help stakeholders make informed decisions and strategies to attract more tourists. As the medical tourism industry continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these factors evolve and shape its future.


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Last update: 06 September 2023


Cambridge Dictionary (2023) Medical tourism, available at: (accessed 05 September 2023)

International Citizen Insurance (2023) Ranking the best healthcare in the world by country, available at: (accessed 04 September 2023)

Sultana, S., Haque, A., Momen, A., & Yasmin, F. (2014) Factors affecting the attractiveness of medical tourism destination, available at: (accessed 04 September 2023)

University of North Carolina at Pembroke (20203) What is medical tourism, available at: (accessed 04 September 2023)

Wichter, Z. (2022) Why the visa process could be ‘discouraging visitors’ and keeping families apart, available at: (accessed 04 September 2023)

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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