Wednesday, 15 August 2012

New article on medical tourism

A new piece on medical tourism has come out by John Connell, following up on the much-cited 2006 article 'Medical tourism: Sea, sun, sand and... surgery?' in the same journal. It illustrates how far we've come in the study of medical tourism in the last six years.

Connell, J. (2012) 'Contemporary medical tourism: Conceptualisation, culture and commodification', Tourism Management. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2012.05.009

An overview is given of the short history and rapid rise of medical tourism, its documentation, and current knowledge and analysis of the industry. Definitions of medical tourism are limited hence who medical tourists are and how many exist are both indeterminate and inflated. Definitions often conflate medical tourism, health tourism and medical travel, and are further complicated by the variable significance of motivation, procedures and tourism. While media coverage suggests long-distance travel for surgical procedures, and the dominance of middle class European patients, much medical tourism is across nearby borders and from diasporas, and of limited medical gravity, conflicting with popular assumptions. Numbers are usually substantially less than industry and media estimates. Data must remain subject to critical scrutiny. Medical travel may be a better form of overall categorisation with medical tourism a sub-category where ‘patient-tourists’ move through their own volition. Much medical tourism is short distance and diasporic, despite being part of an increasingly global medical industry, linked to and parallel with the tourism industry. Intermediaries (medical tourism companies) are of new significance. Opportunities are diffused by word of mouth with the internet of secondary value. Quality and availability of care are key influences on medical tourism behaviour, alongside economic and cultural factors. More analysis is needed of the rationale for travel, the behaviour of medical tourists, the economic and social impact of medical tourism, the role of intermediaries, the place of medical tourism within tourism (linkages with hotels, airlines, travel agents), ethical concerns and global health restructuring.