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Results of the Medical Tourism Climate Survey 2010

Medical Tourism Climate Survey 2010

Keith Pollard, Managing Director of Intuition Communication, publishers of the International Medical Travel Journal reveals the results of the 2010 Medical Tourism Climate Survey. The results were presented on 6th May 2010 at the European Medical Travel Conference in Venice.

IMTJ welcomes comments on the research. Comments may be added at the end of the article.

The Medical Tourism Climate Survey 2010 was funded by the International Medical Travel Journal, the world’s leading journal for the medical travel sector and was completed online by 257 representatives of medical tourism businesses from 55 different countries. A cross section of medical tourism agencies and facilitators, hospitals and business consultants were surveyed with dental treatment, cosmetic surgery and orthopaedic surgery among the most common services provided by respondents. 

The survey examines key issues, current activities, the state of the market and predicted business growth including the understanding and perceived impact of EU Cross Border Healthcare and other challenges and opportunities in the medical travel sector today.

The research is not perfect. It is based on the views of 257 individuals and there may be significant areas of sample bias in the research. This bias may result from the geographical spread of the respondents, the type of organisation that they work for and the nature of their interest in medical tourism. But in a medical tourism world that is largely devoid of research it has to be welcomed.

The survey report has been provided free of charge to the 257 respondents. Others may purchase the full survey from IMTJ for €150. Email sales@imtj.com for further details.


The nature of the sample

The USA, India, UK, Hungary and Turkey were the most highly represented in the sample. A wide variety of organisation types were represented: 29.6% of respondents worked for medical tourism agencies and facilitators, 26.3% for hospitals, and 11.3% for consultancy businesses

The survey reflects the fragmented and “small business” nature of the medical tourism sector and its recent development. More than half of the organisations employ less than five people. More than one third of the respondents handle less than 50 medical tourists per year. 22% handle more than 500 medical tourists per year. 63% of the organisations have been in business for more than two years. Around 20% have been in business for less than one year.

Key highlights include:


Leading medical tourism destinations and patient sources

According to medical tourism facilitators the leading medical tourism destinations are India, Thailand, USA, Hungary and Malaysia. The USA, UK and Russian Federation are seen as the leading source of patients both now and in the future. Countries rated as providing the best overall service to patients are Thailand, India, and Singapore.

Respondents predicted that India, Thailand, and Singapore will also be the leading medical tourism destinations in five years time. (Note that the survey was conducted prior to the recent political unrest in Thailand).


Current trends and predictions for growth

There are mixed views about the current market, with over half believing that the market has declined or remained static in the past twelve months.  Around half of the organisations have seen no growth or a decline in their business over the past year although 47% state that their current business situation is good or very good.  A third of respondents report a growth in their medical tourism business of 10% or more last year. The vast majority are confident about future business prospects with 76% expecting the overall market to grow in the next twelve months.



Respondents are most optimistic about the dental and cosmetic surgery markets.  The majority of organisations surveyed have little understanding of the European Union Directive on Patient Mobility but nevertheless believe that the ratification of the Directive will increase the number of medical tourists with Europe.



Competition and marketing issues are seen as the major problems facing organisations involved in medical tourism.  Other key issues are:

  • Insufficient demand
  • Insurance and liability issues
  • Lack of quality standards and international standards
  • Lack of professionalism within the industry


Patient Choice

The main factors considered to influence patient choice are:

  • Expertise and qualifications of the doctor/dentist
  • Comments and ratings by other patients
  • Fluency in the patient’s language (English, French and German are the most commonly supported languages within the destination countries).



As we know, there is a serious lack of research into the size and nature of the medical tourism marketplace. Much of what is believed about the market is based on opinion and hype rather than a sound factual basis. The Medical Tourism Climate Survey 2010 helps to fill that vacuum, provides some insight in to what is happening throughout the world of medical travel today and is a useful tool for planning and strategy for the industry and individual businesses.

What can we conclude about the industry?

Medical tourism, as we know it today, can best be described as an industry in its infancy. It’s a young and developing market that lacks sophistication and direction and is highly fragmented. It has many new entrants and has few, if any, major players.

If there are the “millions of patients” that some people believe, we have to ask where they are in reality. It would appear that they are not in the hospitals, clinics or facilitator businesses being run by the 257 respondents to the survey.

Your views and comments are welcomed. Submit your comments below.

Want a copy of the full report?

The survey report has been provided free of charge to the 257 respondents. Others may purchase the full survey from IMTJ for €150. Email sales@imtj.com for further details.


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Add your comments below

Comments provided below do not represent the views of IMTJ. Comments will be published "as is" and will not be edited by IMTJ staff. IMTJ is hosting these comments, and is not  undertaking an editorial role in the content of these comments. However, it is editorial policy not to publish comments which have been submitted anonymously.

Use the comment submission form below
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Hospitals in Thailand</a>

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olga gadzhieva (23/05/2011 12:58:41)

Well i am very impressed with the content of the article. Medical Tourism is in its early stage, rightly said. It takes place when you really have no choice in your home country to be treated. Well treatment does not means like going through surgeries or something alike but Spa's are an alternative to these cures as well. Obviously the price is on top of everything. Well when we talk about price it has the same impact which it has in USA or richmans' land the Middle East, all they need is " Value for Money while making Vacation".

Imran Agha (26/05/2010 18:30:22)

It is a rich source of information and directional map of the medical tourism industry. This survey serves to the medical tourst as a guide and for the marketer it is directional trend. Information are valuable to the developement of effective market for the selected target market. But implementation for the development of the actual trend will be adventurous.

Myo Min Htut (21/05/2010 13:47:45)

Great Survey as always. However I don't share the optimism on dental tourism from the UK. Thanks to the open UK market price gap is closing very rapidly thus the core reason of travel is about to be eliminated.

Gabor Pokoradi (17/05/2010 11:03:50)

Congratulations on making an effort to monitor the industry. Rather than the results and their interpretation of this study, which, as you indicated might be subject to multiple sources of bias, the more important question is how does the industry structure a survey mechanism to create a regularly performed global dashboard of activity and distribute the results to stakeholders. Some ideas:
1. Create an medical tourism index with factors that are leading, concommitant and lagging, similar to the Conference Board's Index of Economic Indicators
2. Recruit participants who are representative of the industry,agree to participate on a regular basis and will submit valid data
3. Have an independent third party (Deloitte, KPMG, or academic entity) accumulate, display and analyze the data so as to remove bias.

You get what you measure.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA (14/05/2010 13:47:05)

This is a good report. From the excerpts published above, it is not clear that patients from middle east are considered for this survey or not. How are Mexico and Costarica faring? There is a major push from South Korea to capture the market share from Thailand, did Thailand see any decline in medical tourism because of South Korea?
As all the major tourism destinations are looking to promote medical tourism from Bahamas to Cayman islands, how is it going to effect medical tourism.
Latest developments like volcanic eruption in Iceland, political unrest in Thailand may impact medical tourism.
Online Medical Tourist Community

Dha Kur (13/05/2010 03:09:08)

The survey serves to highlight the fact that Hospitals with international accreditation are likely to retain the trust of the medical travel 'customer'. It is therefore imperative that the potential patient does review these aspects before undertaking travel, and that the facilitator (Advent Meditours) should be able to provide them with assurance that the destination hospitals actively apply both their countries own national standards and internationally recognised standards (e.g. JCI) as that in itself creates a regulation in terms of the control and application of these standards worldwide within countries offering such facilities.

The Doctors concerned should be able to demonstrate a track record of performing such procedures thereby retaining the trust that is inherent in a patient-doctor relationship. Facilitators such as Advent Meditours in the UK will of course aim to establish confidence and trust between the doctor and the potential patient prior to the travel plans being finalised.

Countries such as India are promoting Medical Tourism as a separate section within their tourism industry by providing a special visa to medical tourists. Givent he recent unrest in Thailand, this might wegh in India's favour apart from Internationally trained doctors and international standard hospitals, and the variety of tourism options available from the beaches to the mountains.

Medical Tourism Facilitator for UK/Europe/USA

Supriya Broadbent (11/05/2010 22:17:32)