As you open this month’s medical bills or review health insurance premium rates again on the rise, you may find yourself wondering if there’s an alternative. According to a report just released, there is. New numbers reveal the rapid rise of medical tourism, whereby patients travel abroad for lower-cost yet high-quality medical care.

Over the past decade, the medical tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Once considered a last resort, medical tourism has become a first choice for millions seeking surgical procedures or other medical care at a fraction of the cost of treatment at home.

The latest statistics show an increase of 25% from just two years ago in the number of patients traveling abroad for medical care, fueled by lower procedure and treatment costs, reduced waiting periods, and high satisfaction rates. For many, medical tourism has transformed from an unthinkable option to an undeniable opportunity to receive first-rate health care at a price that won’t break the bank. The numbers don’t lie — medical tourism is on the rise.

The Medical Tourism Industry Is Now a $439 Billion Market

The medical tourism industry has grown exponentially over the past decade, with patients traveling abroad for treatments. According to the latest statistics, the global medical tourism market reached $439 billion in 2019.

Patients seek medical care overseas for several reasons. Cost is a primary driver, with many treatments offered at significantly lower prices internationally. Limited access to certain procedures, long wait times, and insurance restrictions also motivate people to travel for medical care.

The top destinations for medical tourism include Thailand, Mexico, India, Turkey, and Singapore. These locations offer high-quality care at lower costs for a range of procedures like cosmetic surgery, dentistry, orthopedics, and cardio care. Patients can save up to 80% on treatments compared to costs in the United States.

Cost Comparisons for Common Procedures

The cost differential is substantial for both simple and complex medical procedures. Savings of $50,000-$100,000 per treatment are not uncommon for surgeries like transplants or cardiac care.

Lower costs do not necessarily mean lower quality. Many facilities overseas meet or exceed U.S. standards of care and are accredited by the same organizations as American hospitals. Patients can research the quality of international hospitals and physicians to find highly-rated options.

With continued rising healthcare costs in developed nations, the medical tourism industry is poised for strong growth in the coming years. For those seeking affordable, high-quality care, medical travel may offer life-changing savings and benefits.

Medical Tourists Traveled for Care From Over 190 Countries in 2018

According to recent data, medical tourists traveled to seek healthcare from over 190 countries in 2018, up from 184 countries in 2017. This demonstrates the rapidly growing scale and scope of the medical tourism industry.

The top 10 countries where medical tourists originate from account for nearly two-thirds of all medical tourists worldwide. The United States and Canada made up the largest share, with over 1.4 million traveling outside their home countries for medical care, followed closely by the United Kingdom.

Western Europeans, in particular, are increasingly looking abroad for high-quality yet lower-cost medical treatments and procedures. Due to long wait times and lack of availability of certain services in their national healthcare systems, places like Germany, France, Italy and Spain have become leading sources of medical tourists.

Healthcare facilities and hospitals in popular medical tourism destinations have invested heavily to upgrade facilities, secure international healthcare accreditations, and recruit doctors trained abroad in order to attract more foreign patients. Many have also partnered with medical tourism facilitators and agencies to tap into new markets and gain visibility.

The abundance of highly skilled yet affordable care, especially for complex procedures, offered in medical tourism hubs in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East is poised to drive sustained growth in medical tourism originating from countries around the world in the coming years. By addressing cost and access issues, medical tourism offers a viable solution for millions to obtain first-rate medical care that would otherwise be unavailable or unaffordable.

The Most Popular Procedures for Medical Tourists in 2019

Medical tourism, or traveling abroad for medical care, has grown immensely popular in recent years. New data reveals some of the treatments driving this trend.

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic procedures remain a top reason for medical travel, accounting for nearly half of all medical tourism trips in 2019. The lower costs, high quality of care, and discretion offered by destinations like South Korea, Thailand, and Mexico attract those seeking cosmetic enhancements. The most common cosmetic surgeries for medical tourists were:

Facelifts and eyelid surgeries

Non-invasive treatments like Botox have led to a surge in more complex surgeries. Facelifts and blepharoplasties (eyelid lifts) were two of the most requested procedures.

Body contouring surgeries

Procedures like tummy tucks, breast augmentations, and Brazilian butt lifts have become widely available overseas at lower prices. Liposuction also remains popular for reducing fat in targeted areas of the body.

Dental procedures

Cosmetic dentistry including teeth whitening, crowns, veneers, and implants made up a large portion of dental tourism. The quality of care and advanced technology available in some medical tourism destinations have helped drive demand.

Orthopedic Procedures

Joint replacements and orthopedic surgeries were another leading reason for medical travel, especially to destinations in Asia and Latin America. Low costs and skilled surgeons attract those seeking knee replacements, hip replacements, and spinal fusions.

Knee replacements

Knee arthroplasty, or knee replacement surgery, was the most requested orthopedic procedure for medical tourists. Lower costs and shorter waiting times were major motivators.

Hip replacements

Hip arthroplasty was also frequently sought by medical tourists looking to lower out-of-pocket costs for the procedure. Hip replacements are a common surgery for aging populations in Western countries.

With healthcare costs rising globally, the appeal of medical tourism for both cosmetic and necessary procedures will likely only increase. By offering high quality care at lower prices, medical tourism destinations are poised to continue this upward trend.

The Top Destinations for Medical Tourism Worldwide

The medical tourism industry has been growing at an incredible rate over the past decade. According to statistics from the Medical Tourism Association, the number of medical tourists worldwide has risen from around 10 million in 2006 to 14-16 million in 2018. This upward trend is projected to continue increasing over the next several years.

Within this rapidly expanding market, certain countries have emerged as leading destinations for medical tourism. Thailand, Mexico, India, Singapore, and Turkey were ranked as the top five medical tourism destinations in the world, respectively, in the 2018 Medical Tourism Index. These locations offer high quality healthcare, specialized medical services, and lower costs relative to other nations.

Thailand has been nicknamed “The Beverly Hills of Medical Tourism” due to its advanced private hospitals, skilled physicians, and luxury accommodation options. Thailand attracts nearly 3 million medical tourists each year, many seeking cosmetic surgery, dental care, and gender reassignment surgery.

Mexico is renowned for its board-certified bariatric surgeons, dentists, and cosmetic surgeons. Proximity to the U.S. and average savings of 50-80% on procedures are major draws for the over 1 million Americans who travel to Mexico for medical care annually.

India has a robust healthcare infrastructure and some of the lowest costs worldwide for surgeries like knee replacement, hip resurfacing, and heart bypass. Nearly 500,000 medical tourists visited India in 2018 to take advantage of price savings of 65-90% relative to the U.S.

Singapore and Turkey also rank highly as medical tourism destinations due to their advanced hospitals, highly skilled physicians, and competitive pricing. Specialties like oncology, cardiology, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) attract many visitors seeking high quality care at lower cost.

The meteoric rise of the medical tourism industry is poised to continue due to increasing globalization, more convenient international travel options, and greater access to information about treatment options and provider quality overseas. For those unwilling or unable to pay the high costs of healthcare in their home countries, medical tourism may offer an affordable pathway to vital medical services.

Medical Tourism Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

The medical tourism industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. According to the latest statistics from the Medical Tourism Association, the global medical tourism market is expected to reach $72 billion by 2025, up from $45.5 billion in 2019.

Several factors are fueling this rapid rise in medical tourism:

Looking ahead, continued cost savings, access to experimental and unapproved treatments, and investments in world-class medical facilities will ensure steady growth in the medical tourism industry. Patients seeking cosmetic surgery, dental work, fertility treatments, and orthopedic procedures will continue to make up the majority of medical tourists. With healthcare costs rising in many developed nations, medical tourism is poised to become more mainstream and transform the global healthcare landscape.


The medical tourism industry’s expansion shows no signs of slowing down. As healthcare costs continue to skyrocket and insurance remains unaffordable for many, more patients are seeking high-quality yet affordable care abroad. The reduced costs, availability of procedures, and potential to combine medical care with an exotic vacation, all contribute to the appeal of medical tourism.

The numbers confirm that this global industry is experiencing massive growth. If you’ve been considering medical tourism as an option to resolve a health issue or for cosmetic surgery, the odds of finding reputable, accredited facilities and physicians are greater than ever.

The increasing popularity and acceptance of medical tourism means the opportunity to receive excellent care at a lower cost is well within your reach. The medical tourism boom is here – are you ready to take advantage of it?

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