For years, Westerners have been heading to emerging market countries like Brazil for cosmetic surgery or dental work, procedures that are less expensive and invasive than major operations and often aren’t covered by insurance. Nowadays, they are also going for costlier and riskier procedures such as knee replacements and heart surgeries.
Startups from Berlin to Bangkok are capitalizing on this growing market by doing for medical tourists what Airbnb or Hotels.com does for regular travelers seeking lodging: they are matching would-be patients with medical providers around the world.
The medical tourism market Will be worth $125 billion by 2021. That’s an 83% jump from the $68 billion spent in 2016.
On one of these websites, a user can type in a medical procedure, get a list of clinics or doctors in nations that offer the surgery, scroll down, and click on a link to make an appointment. The companies charge providers a commission for bookings or a flat subscription fee to be on the platform. Some are even looking to offer add-on services such as planning beach vacations for recuperating patients and their families.
For many patients, the expense of traveling overseas is well worth it. Consider the fact that a knee replacement procedure costs $35,000 in the United States. The same surgery can be had for $8,200 in Poland, $7,200 in Colombia, or $6,600 in India, according to the U.S.-based Medical Tourism Association.
Here are 5 companies bringing Medical Tourism to the mainstream
Patients Beyond Borders: United States
Over the past twelve years Patients Beyond Borders has partnered with healthcare providers, governments, industry groups to advance the international healthcare community. Through their work with leading internationally accredited hospitals and clinics, Ministries of Health, Ministries of Tourism, top private hospital associations, and public-private initiatives, Patients Beyond Borders has located the world’s most trustworthy medical destinations, the top facilities, doctors and specialists around the world. The firm’s mission is to help connect patients with the highest-quality, most affordable care, and to provide information and advice that will equip patients with the confidence to make most informed decision. See PBB’s Caribbean at a Glance page.
MedHalt provides a curated marketplace for medical tourism services. It bridges the gap between quality health care providers and patients around the globe. In a world where people need medical facilities simplified and with world class qualities, MedHalt assists people searching for quality treatment at affordable prices. The site offers details about medical procedures and treatments, along with insights into different packages. MedHalt also connects patients to the hospitals directly according to the budget and preferences of a patient.
Medigo GmBH: Germany
Medigo has already served 125,000 patients. Co-founder Ugur Samut says some just want a second opinion, while others are seeking critical illness treatments. For invasive procedures, Medigo puts prospective patients in touch with someone who has had the operation in the same hospital. The company also teams up with insurers, such as Allianz. For Allianz’s Russian customers, for example, Medigo will pay the cost of treatment abroad upfront and get reimbursed, saving those patients from having to pay out of pocket. Getting more insurers on board is key to the growth of the industry, because it would let the sites tap into the corporate market.
Medical Departures International: Thailand
Medical Departures International was founded by American Paul McTaggart who began to recognize the possibilities of the medical tourism business while working for travel booking site Expedia Group. The site’s current growth rate is reported to be 40% annually. It is already profitable based on its dental and cosmetic surgery business, and has recently moved into heart care; knee, hip, and joint replacements; and cancer treatments.
BookDoc caters to a different clientele: wealthier citizens in developing countries who travel to get more reliable care. The variety of healthcare services covered is quite extensive. The company has presences in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand. Founder Chevy Beh, whose family runs Malaysia’s BP Healthcare Group, says the site gets 20,000 to 30,000 visitors a day who are interested in medical tourism. The company goes beyond just matching patients with doctors. To assist clients with logistics, BookDoc has partnered with TripAdvisor and Agoda for accommodations, Airbnb for longer stays, and Uber and Grab for ground transport.
(Note to readers: when visiting BookDoc’s website to learn more about the company, I had trouble getting past a very persistent pop-up that kept asking for location information. I was able to get around this issue by opening my google chrome web browser in incognito mode).
Story details sourced from Bloomberg Business Week