Travelling Well : Essays in Medical Tourism

Labonté, R., Runnels, V., Packer, C. and Deonandan, R. (eds.) (2013). Travelling well: Essays in medical tourism. Transdisciplinary Studies in Population Health Series, Vol. 4 Issue 1. Ottawa: Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa.

The opening years of the 21st century have been characterized by a variety of  technological, social, political and economic factors that have seen the disintegration of the  meaning and importance of international borders. From the power of the Internet to link  disparate populations, to the consolidation of blocs of politically intertwined nations such as the  European Union (EU), and the rise of affordable international travel, forces have been  combining to bring about a globalized world economy that was only theorized  in decades past. An obvious facet of this new globalization is the permeability of borders to the movement of consumers seeking a variety of medical services, and providers willing to accommodate, if not  also profit, from this demand. Medical tourism refers to situations wherein an individual makes a decision to physically travel to a location in another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment for which he or she has paid (out-of-pocket or through individual insurance plans).

This book draws from the collective efforts and thoughts of a collaboration of researchers interested in the phenomenon of medical tourism. The services sought span a surprisingly diverse array of medical products, interventions and technologies and the motivations of travellers seeking these services are equally as diverse. The book reflects the diverse aspects of medical tourism and reflects on future directions for this globalized industry.

The book’s contents are as follows:

·    Chapter 1: Introduction

Sets the stage for the book with modern medical tourism viewed as a commercial enterprise and a manifestation of the processes of globalization.  Our use of the term ‘medical tourism’ refers to situations wherein an individual makes a decision to physically travel to a location in another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment for which he or she has paid (out-of-pocket or through individual insurance plans).

This chapter reviews and updates the current evidence of medical tourism, with a focus on the cross-border pursuit of more conventional or customary forms of healthcare (dental, surgical, and diagnostic). 

Provides an overview of the volume and various types of medical tourism to South Africa, while also highlighting the differences between North-South and South-South medical travel to South Africa. The article also examines the emergence of inter-governmental agreements on medical treatment between South Africa and other African countries, and discusses the implications of the South African case study on our understanding of medical tourism.

Analyzes the medical tourism industry in India. The article discusses the facilitators and constraints to India's medical tourism industry, presents the benefits and concerns, and outlines positive steps for India domestically, as well as internationally, in order to facilitate its medical tourism exports.  

Provides an overview of two country case examples (Mexico and Cuba), which represent two fundamentally different models of medical tourism. The article discusses the medical services offered and the effects the industry has on the overall healthcare system of each respective country. 

This chapter presents five vignettes that bring forth uncommon or exceptional aspects of particular Canadian medical tourists' experiences in order to raise questions and offer caveats to the many generalizations and conspicuous absences that are found in current popular and academic discussions of how a medical tour unfolds. 

A personal story of a patient battling to sustain weight loss, and her experience at a US facility conducting bariatric surgery. 

This chapter examines Out of Country Care (OOCC) funded by Canadian provincial/territorial health insurance plans. It specifically looks at some challenges to the current system and suggests some potential research questions and general implications of cross-border and OOCC for a country with a publicly-funded healthcare system. 

Analyzes the ethical implications of reproductive medical tourism, including travel for IVF, ICSI, sex-selection, PGD and maternal surrogacy. 

This chapter examines the extent to which trade agreements can impact health tourism.

·   Chapter 11: Let's Make a Deal - The Commerce of Medical Tourism.  This chapter summarizes the author’s first-hand experiences and the issues presented of a commercial international medical tourism conference

·  Chapter 12: Conclusion - Medical Tourism Today and Tomorrow.  Closes the book with a brief summary and some reflections on future directions.