By Brooke Faulkner
The phrase “medical tourism” has been coined to describe the millions of Americans who are traveling across the globe to have surgery or other medical procedures performed. According to Visa and Oxford Economics, this trend is growing at a rate of 25 percent per year.
Healthcare in the U.S. has become increasingly expensive — to the point that some necessary treatments are entirely out of reach for the average American. Combine that with rising health insurance premiums and high deductibles, and it’s no wonder 1.4 million people traveled abroad last year to get the medical care they needed.
Additionally, many countries offer more advanced technological solutions and experimental treatments that are not yet available within the U.S. Better, more advanced care that is less expensive sounds like an attractive reason why so many Americans are taking advantage of overseas healthcare.
The reason these countries can offer above-standard care for less money is that the doctors are paid less and hospitals charge less than in America. Plus, the insurance costs are a fraction of U.S. expenses. The result is that some U.S. health insurance companies now support overseas treatment and even pay for the travel along with the cost of the procedures.
Talk of improvements to the U.S. healthcare system becomes popular during an election year, but unfortunately, things don’t seem to improve; they continue to get more expensive for the average American.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was in part meant to discourage traveling outside the country for healthcare by making it easier for all Americans to be able to afford their own treatment. Unfortunately forcing everyone to have health insurance only increased health insurance premiums, hospitals and physician fees and complicated the issue making affordable healthcare further out of reach.
U.S. Medical Technology: How Does It Measure Up?
In the U.S., healthcare professionals have a number of factors to consider when implementing technology. They must consider cost, leadership buy-in and other keys to successful implementation. Unfortunately, because of the excessive investment cost for medical technology implementation here in the U.S., America is sorely lagging behind countries like Canada, China, India and England. These countries have access to bigger budgets, fewer government bottlenecks, and a more streamlined approval process to get medicine and devices out into the market faster.
The United Kingdom, China and Canada are all investing serious money in biotechnology and experimenting with pharmaceutical cures that are years beyond the technology produced by U.S. companies. Lawmakers in those countries are invested in supporting and funding new technologies to lead the pack in innovation and medical history.
The difference is that in many of these locales, the government solidly backs the research and development of medical technology solutions rather than private companies. In the U.S. most of the advancements come from the private sector and are not government sanctioned or funded.