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.

Canadian Print News Coverage of Medical Tourism: Examining Key Themes and Ethical Gaps

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Document type: 
Book chapter

Exceptional Aspects of the Experiences of Canadian Medical Tourists from Patient Narratives

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Document type: 
Book
File(s): 

An Overview of Barbados' Medical Tourism Industry - Version 2.0

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2013
Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Ethical and Legal Implications of the Risks of Medical Tourism for Patients: A Qualitative Study of Canadian Health and Safety Representatives’ Perspectives

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

Objectives Medical tourism involves patients’ intentional travel to privately obtain medical care in another country. Empirical evidence regarding health and safety risks facing medical tourists is limited. Consideration of this issue is dominated by speculation and lacks meaningful input from people with specific expertise in patient health and safety. We consulted with patient health and safety experts in the Canadian province of British Columbia to explore their views concerning risks that medical tourists may be exposed to. Herein, we report on the findings, linking them to existing ethical and legal issues associated with medical tourism.

Design We held a focus group in September 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia with professionals representing different domains of patient health and safety expertise. The focus group was transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

Participants Seven professionals representing the domains of tissue banking, blood safety, health records, organ transplantation, dental care, clinical ethics and infection control participated.

Results Five dominant health and safety risks for outbound medical tourists were identified by participants: (1) complications; (2) specific concerns regarding organ transplantation; (3) transmission of antibiotic-resistant organisms; (4) (dis)continuity of medical documentation and (5) (un)informed decision-making.

Conclusions Concern was expressed that medical tourism might have unintended and undesired effects upon patients’ home healthcare systems. The individual choices of medical tourists could have significant public consequences if healthcare facilities in their home countries must expend resources treating postoperative complications. Participants also expressed concern that medical tourists returning home with infections, particularly antibiotic-resistant infections, could place others at risk of exposure to infections that are refractory to standard treatment regimens and thereby pose significant public health risks.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Understanding the Impacts of Medical Tourism on Health Human Resources in Barbados: A Prospective, Qualitative Study of Stakeholder Perceptions

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

Background

Medical tourism is a global health practice where patients travel internationally with the intention of receiving medical services. A range of low, middle, and high income countries are encouraging investment in the medical tourism sector, including countries in the Caribbean targeting patients in North America and Europe. While medical tourism has the potential to provide economic and employment opportunities in destination countries, there are concerns that it could encourage the movement of health workers from the public to private health sector.

Methods

We present findings from 19 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the public health care, private health care, government, allied business, and civil society sectors. These interviews were conducted in-person in Barbados and via phone. The interview transcripts were coded and a thematic analysis developed.

Results

Three themes were identified: 1) Stakeholder perceptions of the patterns and plans for health human resource usage by current and planned medical tourism facilities in Barbados. We found that while health human resource usage in the medical tourism sector has been limited, it is likely to grow in the future; 2) Anticipated positive impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These benefits included improved quality control, training opportunities, and health worker retention; and 3) Anticipated negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These impacts included longer wait times for care and a shift in planning priorities driven by the medical tourism sector.

Conclusions

Stakeholders interviewed who were connected to medical tourism expansion or the tourism sector took a generally positive view of the likely impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. However, stakeholders associated with the public health system and health equity expressed concern that medical tourism may spread inequities in this country. The mechanisms by which observed negative health equity impacts in other countries will be avoided in Barbados are unclear. Continued study in Barbados and comparison with the regulatory frameworks in other countries is needed to help enhance positive and mitigate negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. These findings will likely have import for other Caribbean nations investing in medical tourism and beyond.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

An Overview of Barbados' Medical Tourism Industry - Version 1.0

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

New Ethical Perspectives on Medical Tourism in the Developing World

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Document type: 
Article

Perceptions of the Ethics of Medical Tourism by Canadian Patients: Comparing Patient and Academic Perspectives

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

Medical tourism is a practice, whereby individuals travel across national borders with the intention of receiving medical care. Medical tourists are motivated to travel abroad by a number of factors, including the affordability of care abroad, access to treatments not available at home, and wait times for care at home. In this article, we share the findings of interviews conducted with 32 Canadian medical tourists with the aim of developing a better understanding of medical tourism, the ethical issues it raises for public health within Canada and other source countries for medical tourists, and to identify research gaps and policy responses to this practice. While patient and academic perspectives overlap in several regards, we suggest areas in which academic consideration of the ethical issues raised by medical tourism can be informed by patient perspectives.

Document type: 
Article

Narratives of Emotion and Anxiety in Medical Tourism: on State of the Heart and Larry's Kidney

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2012
Abstract: 

This paper explores the emotional geographies of State of the Heart and Larry's Kidney—two nonfiction narratives about medical tourism wherein American patients and their caregiver companions travel abroad for life-saving surgeries. The paper has two main goals: first, to illustrate the importance of emotional geographies in medical tourists' lived experiences of travel and tourism, as well as the giving and receiving of transnational health care and second, to generate empirical, theoretical, and methodological discussions between geographical, travel, tourism, and health studies on the relevance of emotional geographies. Medical tourists' experiences of travel and health care have been usually examined as spatially distinct rather than as entwined phenomena. We address the above goals by discussing how the narratives of traveling thousands of miles to a radically different socio-cultural milieu in order to receive essential medical care produce two interrelated emotional geographies: first, they demonstrate the existence of ‘emotional amplification’ (increase in the intensity of emotions) and ‘emotional extensivity’ (increase in the range of emotions) and second, they show how anxiety is underpinned by proximity to Otherness, uncertain boundaries, and isolated decision making. We conclude by briefly addressing how our examination of these narratives can be usefully expanded.

 

Document type: 
Article