Background:The medical tourism industry, which assists patients with accessing non-emergency medical careabroad, has grown rapidly in recent years. A lack of reliable data about medical tourism makes it difficult to createpolicy, health system, and public health responses to address the associated risks and shortcomings, such as spreadof infectious diseases, associated with this industry. This article addresses this knowledge gap by analyzinginterviews conducted with Canadian medical tourism facilitators in order to understand Canadian patients’involvement in medical tourism and the implications of this involvement for public health.Methods:Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with 12 medical facilitators from 10 companies in2010. An exhaustive recruitment strategy was used to identify interviewees. Questions focused on businessdimensions, information exchange, medical tourists’ decision-making, and facilitators’ roles in medical tourism.Thematic analysis was undertaken following data collection.Results: Facilitators helped their Canadian clients travel to 11 different countries. Estimates of the number ofclients sent abroad annually varied due to demand factors. Facilitators commonly worked with medical touristsaged between 40 and 60 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds who faced a number of potential barriersincluding affordability, fear of the unfamiliar, and lack of confidence. Medical tourists who chose not to usefacilitators’ services were thought to be interested in saving money or have cultural/familial connections to thedestination country. Canadian doctors were commonly identified as barriers to securing clients.Conclusions:No effective Canadian public health response to medical tourism can treat medical tourists as aunified group with similar motivations for engaging in medical tourism and choosing similar mechanisms fordoing so. This situation may be echoed in other countries with patients seeking care abroad. Therefore, a call for acomprehensive public health response to medical tourism and its effects should be coupled with a clearunderstanding that medical tourism is a highly diverse practice. This response must also acknowledge facilitators asimportant stakeholders in medical tourism.
Johnston et al. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:416
BMC Public Health
An Industry Perspective on Canadian Patients' Involvement in Medical Tourism: Implications for Public Health
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