What we need... is a reasonable, rational approach to medical tourism


Fact, Fantasy & Fiction

With so much hyperbole and (frankly) nonsense swirling around the topics of medical travel and international “medical tourism”, it’s hard to know where to start a reasonable, rational approach to the market. As a healthcare marketing professional with over 40 years’ experience in the healthcare sector, I have learned to sort the “wheat from the chaff” so to speak. My conclusion is that there are very few models to understand the market, and so little reliable or credible data, that we all should take a deep breath and start deconstructing this phenomenon called (inappropriately, in my opinion) “medical tourism.”

For example, one of the questions which has not been thoughtfully addressed is, “Why”?

Why do consumers travel for medical care?

Why Bother?

While there are many categories among medical travelers, this question holds particular interest for the market when it is applied to consumers who could consume medical services in their home locations, but choose to travel.

After all, it was these “discretionary” medical tourists who became synonymous with the market from the outset.

The Price Isn’t Right

The role of “price” or cost, is most frequently assumed to be a prime motivator for medical travelers. If dental care, for example, is far less expensive in Hungary than in London, why wouldn’t those who need implants travel? And if that hip replacement is too expensive in the US, why wouldn’t the man from Minneapolis travel to Monterey, Mexico? As my research and others’ have shown, price isn’t necessarily the primary motivation and the concept of “price” may actually be inversely related to perceived quality and therefore attractiveness. In other words, when it comes to medical care, consumers perceive that cheap is bad and expensive is good. So lower prices can be an obstacle to preference, rather than an advantage.

Ask the Right Question

This is the type of behavioral and market-based question which my presentation at the Destination Health Summit will address.

Narrow the focus, get the right question, ask and then analyze the results. Simple.

Surprisingly, there is little research on how and why individuals choose medical providers, and there is even less scholarly, or applied research regarding how medical consumers choose providers “at a distance”. Why? Because it’s just easier to sell fantasy and fiction, rather than facts, I think. And because when the market is carefully parsed, by service line and region, separating voluntary from involuntary consumers, and simple from complex procedures, the markets are far, far smaller than others have speculated

My colleagues and I have created some fact-based models for better understanding consumer behavior within these markets, with an eye toward influencing and managing consumer preference and behavior. Please join us!


Rain or shine?... The outlook for medical travel

Resources, 05 July, 2018

Irving Stackpole, Stackpole and Associates, IMTJ Summit 2018

International Medical Travel – Telehealth & Telemedicine Innovations

Resources, 30 April, 2018

Irving Stackpole, Stackpole & Associates, IMTJ Medical Travel Summit USA 2018

Will medical travel ever make it to the mainstream?

Resources, 30 April, 2018

Irving Stackpole, Stackpole & Associates, IMTJ Medical Travel Summit USA 2018

Argentina medical tourism

Articles, 14 June, 2017

It takes more than two to tango in medical tourism

Domestic medical tourism opportunities

Resources, 01 May, 2017

Irving Stackpole, Destination Health: The Medical Travel Summit USA

The dynamics of medical travel

Resources, 01 May, 2017

Irving Stackpole, Destination Health: The Medical Travel Summit USA

How to improve your medical tourism marketing

Resources, 26 April, 2017

Irving Stackpole, Stackpole and Associates, IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2017

Slow progress for US medical travel

Articles, 07 June, 2016

Why have US employers failed to adopt medical tourism?

Outlook of the US medical travel market

Resources, 26 May, 2016

Irving Stackpole: IMTJ Summit 2016

The role of destination brand on medical travel choice

Resources, 26 May, 2016

Irving Stackpole: IMTJ Summit 2016

Are you insured for medical travel?

Articles, 19 May, 2016

The US health insurance market and medical travel: Separating fact from fiction

USA outbound medical travel market report

Resources, 11 February, 2016

The insight you need to make a success of attracting American medical tourists

Where have we got it right… and where have we gone wrong?

Resources, 15 April, 2015

Irving Stackpole: IMTJ Summit 2015

Don't get fooled

Articles, 12 July, 2013

Getting the best returns from conferences and trade shows

Conjoint Analysis

Articles, 22 October, 2012

A research tool for medical tourism

Ten Terrible Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Resources, 01 May, 2012

Irving Stackpole: EMTC 2012

Medical reform

Articles, 02 December, 2011

What does the Affordable Care Act mean for medical tourism?



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