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.

Understanding the Health and Safety Risks for British Columbia’s Outbound Medical Tourists

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011-11
Abstract: 

When patients choose to go abroad to privately purchase medical care they are engaging in ‘medical tourism’, which isthe most commonly used name for this practice. Several studies and reports suggest that there are a number of healthand safety risks to patients who choose to purchase private medical care abroad. Much of our existing knowledgeabout the health and safety risks of medical tourism for patients is, however, limited due to a lack of comprehensiveresearch and reporting. Acknowledging this and the reportedtrends of Canadians’ increasing involvement in medicaltourism, a consultative meeting was held in September, 2011with individuals whose professional roles relate to patientsafety, health, and risk management. This meeting, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, aimed to learn more aboutthe types of concerns that these professionals have observed or believe exist in principle as a result of British Columbians’ involvement in medical tourism

Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Perspectives on Canadians' Involvement in Medical Tourism

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011-09
Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Perspectivas sobre el involucramiento de los canadienses en el turismo médico

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011-09
Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

Perspective sur la participation des Canadiennes et des Canadiens au tourisme médical

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Document type: 
Report
File(s): 

What Do We Know about Canadian Involvement in Medical Tourism? A Scoping Review.

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Background: Medical tourism, the intentional pursuit of elective medical treatments in foreign countries, is a rapidly growing global industry. Canadians are among those crossing international borders to seek out privately purchased medical care. Given Canada’s universally accessible, single-payer domestic health care system, important implications emerge from Canadians’ private engagement in medical tourism.

Methods: A scoping review was conducted of the popular, academic, and business literature to synthesize what is currently known about Canadian involvement in medical tourism. Of the 348 sources that were reviewed either partly or in full, 113 were ultimately included in the review.

Results: The review demonstrates that there is an extreme paucity of academic, empirical literature examining medical tourism in general or the Canadian context more specifically. Canadians are engaged with the medical tourism industry not just as patients but also as investors and business people. There have been a limited number of instances of Canadians having their medical tourism expenses reimbursed by the public medicare system. Wait times are by far the most heavily cited driver of Canadians’ involvement in medical tourism. However, despite its treatment as fact, there is no empirical research to support or contradict this point.

Discussion: Although medical tourism is often discussed in the Canadian context, a paucity of data on this practice complicates our understanding of its scope and impact.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

The 'Patient's Physician One-Step Removed': The Evolving Roles of Medical Tourism Facilitators

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

BackgroundMedical tourism involves patients travellinginternationally to receive medical services. This practiceraises a range of ethical issues, including potential harmsto the patient’s home and destination country and risksto the patient’s own health. Medical tourists oftenengage the services of a facilitator who may book traveland accommodation and link the patient with a hospitalabroad. Facilitators have the potential to exacerbate ormitigate the ethical concerns associated with medicaltourism, but their roles are poorly understood.Methods12 facilitators were interviewed from 10Canadian medical tourism companies.ResultsThree themes were identified: facilitators’ rolestowards the patient, health system and medical tourismindustry. Facilitators’ roles towards the patient weretypically described in terms of advocacy and theprovision of information, but limited by facilitators’ legalliability. Facilitators felt they played a positive role in thelives of their patients and the Canadian health systemand served as catalysts for reform, although they notedan adversarial relationship with some Canadianphysicians. Many facilitators described personally visitingmedical tourism sites and forming personal relationshipswith surgeons abroad, but noted the need for greaterregulation of their industry.ConclusionFacilitators play a substantial and evolvingrole in the practice of medical tourism and may be enteringa period of professionalisation. Because of the key roleof facilitators in determining the effects of medical tourismon patients and public health, this paper recommendsa planned conversation between medical tourismstakeholders to define and shape facilitators’ roles.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Promoting Medical Tourism to India: Messages, Images, and the Marketing of International Patient Travel

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011-01
Abstract: 

The practice of medical tourism depends on successfully informing potential patients about procedure options, treatment facilities, tourism opportunities, travel arrangements, and destination countries. The promotion of medical tourism includes a wide range of marketing materials such as flyers, booklets, and websites. Yet, there is a paucity of knowledge about the dissemination, content, and reception of these promotional materials. Drawing on   a thematic content analysis of the promotional print material distributed at the first medical tourism trade show in Canada in 2009, the main purpose of this article is to identify and understand the messages and images that companies use to market India as a global destination. While researchers and news media frequently cite low cost procedures as a key determinant for international patient travel, particularly to developing nations, our analysis reveals few low cost- related images or messages in the promotional materials distributed at the trade show. To help explain this surprising disjuncture, we  consider four related issues: (1)  promotional materials may be  designed to be  circulated amongst potential patients’ concerned family and friends who privilege knowing about things such as  the use of  advanced technologies; (2)   developing nations need to portray safe   and advanced treatment facilities in  order to dispel potential patients’ suspicions that their medical care is inferior; (3)  companies may avoid making cost saving claims that cannot be  fulfilled for  all  of  their international patients, especially those traveling from developing nations; and (4)  messages of low cost may detract from and even undermine messages about quality.  We conclude by identifying numerous avenues for  future research by  social and health scientists, and by  considering the implications of  our findings for  existing knowledge gaps and debates within health geography specifically.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

What Canadian Family Physicians Need to Know About Medical Tourism

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011
Abstract: 

Broadly speaking, medical tourism involves patients intentionally going abroad to pursue medical services outside of formal cross-border care arrangements that are typically paid for out-of-pocket. Orthopedic, dental, cosmetic, transplant, and other surgeries are offered by hospitals around the world looking to attract international patients, with such procedures often available for purchase as part of “package deals” that include recovery stays at affiliated tourist resorts or hotels. In this commentary we synthesize what we believe are the 10 most important issues of concern for Canadian family physicians regarding Canadian patients’ involvement in medical tourism. In effect, our intent is to reignite discussion on the relevance of medical tourism to Canadian family medicine that was started by the 2007 commentary by Leigh Turner (Can Fam Physician 2007;53:1639-41) and to use this as an opportunity to inform Canadian family physicians about key issues of current concern. We believe it is particularly timely to reignite discussion about medical tourism in the Canadian context given recent reports of a new “super-bug” (NDM-1 [New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase]) having been contracted by some Canadian medical tourists who underwent surgery in India in 2010.

Document type: 
Article

Issues and Challenges in Research on the Ethics of Medical Tourism: Reflections from a Conference

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2011-03
Abstract: 

The authors co-organized (Snyder and Crooks) and gave a keynote presentation at (Turner) a conference on ethical issues in medical tourism. Medical tourism involves travel across international borders with the intention of receiving medical care. This care is typically paid for out-of-pocket and is motivated by an interest in cost savings and/or avoiding wait times for care in the patient’s home country. This practice raises numerous ethical concerns, including potentially exacerbating health inequities in destination and source countries and disrupting continuity of care for patients. In this report, we synthesize conference presentations and present three lessons from the conference: 1) Medical tourism research has the potential for cross- or inter-disciplinarity but must bridge the gap between researchers trained in ethical theory and scholars unfamiliar with normative frameworks; 2) Medical tourism research must engage with empirical research from a variety of disciplines; and 3) Ethical analyses of medical tourism must incorporate both individual and population-level perspectives. While these lessons are presented in the context of research on medical tourism, we argue that they are applicable in other areas of research where global practices, such as human subject research and health worker migration, are occurring in the face of limited regulatory oversight.

Document type: 
Article

Medical Tourism and Bariatric Surgery: More Moral Challenges

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2010-12
Abstract: 

Describes concerns related to bariatric surgery undertaken by medical tourists.

Document type: 
Article