Medical Tourism Research Group

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The Medical Tourism Research Group is based at Simon Fraser University (SFU) near Vancouver, Canada. Its research is ongoing, so please check on this collection from time to time to see their latest work. If you have questions about the research, please send an email to: medtour@sfu.ca

Medical tourism involves international travel with the intent of addressing medical care needs of the traveler that occurs outside of arranged cross-border care. Such medical care is usually paid for out-of-pocket. Specific interventions include necessary surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, reproductive treatments, organ transplantation, and travel for experimental treatments such as stem cell transfers and CCSVI treatment for multiple sclerosis. The research team is particularly interested in Canadians’ travel for elective surgeries that do not involve purchased human organs.

An Overview of Mexico’s Medical Tourism Industry: The Cases of Mexico City and Monterrey. version 1.0

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-08
Abstract: 

In this report we offer some general information on Mexico and its health system before going into detail about key developments in its medical tourism industry. Complementing the main text, nine Appendices provide additional detailed insights. Appendix 1 offers a synthesis of media coverage of medical tourism in Mexico City’s main newspapers in recent years, while Appendix 2 is a synthesis of media coverage of 2 | P a g e medical tourism in Monterrey. In Appendix 3 we share a summary of policy documents central to medical tourism in Mexico. In this Appendix we consider five health equity indicators most often discussed in the medical tourism literature: (1) impacts on health human resources; (2) government involvement in the industry; (3) foreign investment in the industry; (4) impacts on private health care; and (5) impacts on public health care. In Appendix 4 we provide a list of agencies involved in medical tourism in Mexico City and Monterrey. Appendices 5 and 6 are respectively a map of facilities in Mexico City and Monterrey interested in medical tourism. Appendix 7 summarizes the advertised medical services and Appendix 8 lists the accepted national and international insurance agencies for select hospitals in Mexico City. Finally, the trade and investment treaties in Mexico are included in Appendix 9.

Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Professional Regulation: A Potentially Valuable Tool in Responding to “Stem Cell Tourism”

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

The growing international market for unproven stem cell-based interventions advertised on a direct-to-consumer basis over the internet (“stem cell tourism”) is a source of concern because of the risks it presents to patients as well as their supporters, domestic health care systems, and the stem cell research field. Emerging responses such as public and health provider-focused education and national regulatory efforts are encouraging, but the market continues to grow. Physicians play a number of roles in the stem cell tourism market and, in many jurisdictions, are members of a regulated profession. In this article, we consider the use of professional regulation to address physician involvement in stem cell tourism. Although it is not without its limitations, professional regulation is a potentially valuable tool that can be employed in response to problematic types of physician involvement in the stem cell tourism market.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Motivation, Justification, Normalization: Talk Strategies Used by Canadian Medical Tourists Regarding Their Choices to Go Abroad for Hip and Knee Surgeries

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Contributing to health geography scholarship on the topic, the objective of this paper is to reveal Canadian medical tourists’ perspectives regarding their choices to seek knee replacement or hip replacement or resurfacing (KRHRR) at medical tourism facilities abroad rather than domestically. We address this objective by examining the ‘talk strategies’ used by these patients in discussing their choices and the ways in which such talk is co-constructed by others. Fourteen interviews were conducted with Canadians aged 42-77 who had gone abroad for KRHRR. Three types of talk strategies emerged through thematic analysis of their narratives: motivation, justification, and normalization talk. Motivation talk referenced participants’ desires to maintain or resume physical activity, employment, and participation in daily life. Justification talk emerged when participants described how limitations in the domestic system drove them abroad. Finally, being a medical tourist was talked about as being normal on several bases. Among other findings, the use of these three talk strategies in patients’ narratives surrounding medical tourism for KRHRR offers new insight into the language-health-place interconnection. Specifically, they reveal the complex ways in which medical tourists use talk strategies to assert the soundness of their choice to shift the site of their own medical care on a global scale while also anticipating, if not even guarding against, criticism of what ultimately is their own patient mobility. These talk strategies provide valuable insight into why international patients are opting to engage in the spatially explicit practice of medical tourism and who and what are informing their choices.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

An Overview of Guatemala’s Medical Tourism Industry. version 2.0

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-04
Abstract: 

In this report we offer some general information on Guatemala and its health system before going into detail about key developments in its medical tourism industry. Complementing the main text, four Appendices provide additional detailed insights. Appendix 1 offers a synthesis of media coverage of medical tourism in Guatemala's main newspapers in recent years. In Appendix 2 we share a summary of policy documents central to medical tourism in Guatemala. In both of these Appendices we consider five health equity indicators most often discussed in the medical tourism literature: (1) impacts on health human resources; (2) government involvement in the industry; (3) foreign investment in the industry; (4) impacts on private health care; and (5) impacts on public health care. In Appendix 3 we provide maps of medical tourism facilities in the country. Finally, trade and investment treaties in Guatemala are provided in Appendix 4.

Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

“I Knew What Was Going To Happen If I Did Nothing and So I Was Going To Do Something”: Faith, Hope, and Trust In The Decisions Of Canadians With Multiple Sclerosis To Seek Unproven Interventions Abroad

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment is an unproven intervention aimed at relieving some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Despite limited evidence of the efficacy and safety of this intervention, Canadians diagnosed with MS have been traveling abroad to access this procedure as it is not available domestically outside of limited clinical trials. This paper discusses the experiences of Canadians with MS seeking CCSVI treatment abroad.

Methods

This paper presents a secondary analysis of 15 interviews with participants who had gone abroad for CCSVI treatment. Interviews were conducted over the phone between October 2012 and December 2012. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were hand coded for: 1) why CCSVI treatment was sought and where it was obtained; 2) the role of having hope for a cure in seeking CCSVI; 3) the impact of MS on everyday life; and 4) the role other people played in the decision to go abroad.

Results

The authors identified loss of faith, hope, and trust as themes emerging from the transcripts. The participants experienced a loss of faith with the Canadian health system and especially the neurologists who were responsible for their care and the classification of MS as a neurological disease. Access to CCSVI treatment abroad generated hope in these participants, but they were cautious in their expectations, focusing on symptom management rather than a cure. Trust in their caregivers abroad was generated through the recommendations of other MS sufferers and the credentials of their caregivers abroad.

Conclusions

By deciding to seek an unproven intervention abroad, these individuals took on responsibility for their care from the Canadian health system. While evidence of the efficacy of CCSVI treatment is limited, the participants felt that they were making a rational care decision, focusing on the empowerment and renewed hope generated by seeking this intervention. Health professionals and policy makers globally should consider the causes of loss of faith in their domestic care systems and balance the benefits of empowerment and renewed hope against concerns that unproven interventions may create new health risks.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Medical Tourism Facilitators: Ethical Concerns about Roles and Responsibilities

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Within the medical tourism industry are a number of key stakeholders – groups and individuals who champion the development of the industry, provide services within the industry, use the services of the industry, and/or are directly or indirectly impacted by the industry - who contribute to its expansion. One such group is facilitators, private agents who broker medical travel and foreign care arrangements between patients and destination facilities but are not employed by these facilities. Key to this element of the medical tourism industry is the Internet; facilitation companies in many countries have a strong web presence and rely primarily on websites (and secondarily on word-of-mouth) to advertise their services.

Medical tourism brokers’ responsibilities toward medical tourists can include securing travel and accommodation needs, suggesting and booking facilities and surgeons abroad, contacting destination clinics, overseeing translation of medical records, arranging for tourist activities, and transferring medical records.These brokers can play an essential role in facilitating communication, providing information, and securing overall quality control by assessing the reputability and reliability of international facilities.It appears, however, that only a fraction of medical tourists actually use the services of brokers.

Document type: 
Book chapter
File(s): 

Caring for Non-residents in Barbados: Examining the Implications of Inbound Transnational Medical Care for Public and Private Health Care

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Abstract: 

Barbados is a tourism dependent island state whose income is very sensitive to perturbations in the global economy and is thus seeking ways to diversify its service exports:

Barbados has a two-tiered health system with a publicly funded health system operating alongside numerous private clinics.

Private provision of health services in Barbados has grown between 2000-2010.

Barbados has an established history of providing health care to ill vacationers, other Caribbean residents and more recently, small but growing numbers of medical tourists seeking fertility care.

The Bajan government is aggressively promoting the development of their medical tourism industry, including the facilitation of the development of a mid-size private hospital catering primarily to medical tourists.

The development of medical tourism services in Barbados carries with it the potential for some economic gains, but also significant risks to health equity if mismanaged or left unregulated.

Document type: 
Book chapter
File(s): 

Are you a Canadian thinking about going abroad for surgery or other medical care?

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Are you considering going abroad for medical care? The Simon Fraser University Medical Tourism Research Group has developed the following guide to help inform your decision. This information sheet was developed in consultation with health workers, medical tourism professionals, and researchers in order to help you consider the pros and cons of engaging in medical tourism.

Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

An Overview of the Medical Tourism Industry in Chennai, India - Version 1.0

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Document type: 
Report
File(s):