Declining interest in medical tourism?

 

Last month we heard from the USA that "Medical Tourism Industry Valued at $439B" and is "Poised for 25% Year-Over-Year Growth by 2025".  This month, I see that there's a new report on the "World Medical Tourism Market" claiming that the world medical tourism market will reach $143.8 billion by 2022, with a CAGR of 15.7% from 2015 to 2022.

In contrast, Ian Youngman, an independent researcher who writes for IMTJ and has been monitoring the market for over ten years comes up with his own "best guesstimate". In his latest report, Medical Tourism Facts and Figures 2016, Ian says "I would put it at between $5 billion and $7 billion." Ian is probably much nearer the mark than the $143.8 billion  or the $439 billion.

The honest answer is that nobody actually knows. But the hype continues. My favourite quote of the week, on the market size issue, emanated from an MTA webcast  "There's a lot of crap out there", said the presenter. Given that the presenter's business is making the most of publicising the latest inflated market  estimates, I felt it was a little contrary.

So, is there anywhere else we can look to get an idea of how this business sector is developing?

What does Google say about medical tourism?

If you want to know who's going to win one of those reality TV shows that go to a public vote, then Google can probably tell you. Because interest displayed via Google searches gives you a very good idea of voting patterns. When it comes to interest in medical tourism, can Google tell us anything about the sector?

Google Trends is a great tool for looking at "what's hot" and "what's not", keeping track of what people want to know about, and how interest in market sectors, products and topics changes over time. The data analyses over 100-billion searches made every month on Google, and can be tracked back over many years.
Savvy marketers are making increased use of Google Trends to identify patterns in consumer demand and assess the development of new markets.

So what does Google Trends tell us about medical tourism?

Here is a graph of "interest over time" for the search topic "medical tourism" from 2004 until now.

  • Interest in the topic peaked in November 2006... ten years ago.
  • Since March 2009, interest in the topic has seen a steady decline. The current level of interest is around 40% of what it was at its peak.

So, should we be worried about this? Probably, yes. You could argue that medical tourism has now become widely accepted and is the norm, so people don't search to find out about it anymore. I don't buy that. Or is it an example of a market sector that attracted a great deal of interest and then has failed to take off?

Search trends for related terms

Search volumes for related topics and terms have seen a similar decline. Whether it's "medical tourism", "medical travel" or "health tourism" the trend is downwards. The graph below shows the last ten years.  I've left "wellness travel" and "wellness tourism" off the graph because the numbers are very small.  Medical travel comes out top overall.

Geographic trends

Google Trends also allows you to drill down to regions and countries. I've left the data out of this article, but go and have a look for your own region. Here's a few I noted:

  • Interest in medical tourism is highest in Singapore, India, UAE, Philippines and Malaysia.
  • But the trend in interest is different in each region and country:

-Singapore has peaks and troughs.
-For the UAE and Malaysia, it has been relatively constant over the last ten years.
-India and , the Philippines have seen declining interest

Give it a go!

So, there you go. Something to think about when you're planning your next international patient programme. And certainly something to think about when you see the latest PR from a conference organiser, a report publisher or a consultancy claiming exponential/staggering/massive growth for our industry.

We have quite a bit of work to do!

FURTHER CONTENT PUBLISHED BY THIS AUTHOR

Unique value proposition in medical tourism

18 May, 2017

The unique value proposition in medical tourism... What's yours?

Indian medical tourism worth 8 billion?

26 January, 2017

India medical tourism market: Worth $8 billion? The reality...

What kind of bird is IMTJ?

10 January, 2017

"A bird of a different feather in the colourful aviary of medical tourism"... But what kind of bird?

Why attend the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit 2017?

04 January, 2017

Five reasons to come to Croatia for the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit in April 2017

How the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit is different

05 December, 2016

Five ways in which the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit is different

UK medical tourism recovery?

29 November, 2016

A recovery in outbound medical tourism from the UK?

Gulf medical tourism

16 November, 2016

Watch out.... things are changing in the Gulf

Find me a cure

26 October, 2016

Desperate measures.... charitable fundraising for treatment abroad

Cosmetic surgery abroad

12 October, 2016

The challenge for cosmetic surgery clinics abroad

Visa backtracks on figures

22 August, 2016

Correction... The medical tourism industry is nine times smaller than we thought!

Any truth to MTA's latest claim?

26 July, 2016

Global medical tourism industry value - $439 billion!

Medical tourism and Brexit

05 July, 2016

The IMTJ view on Brexit and medical tourism

Lessons from the past

31 March, 2016

Is history repeating itself in the Cayman Islands?

Myth busters: Florida medical tourism

26 February, 2016

Florida medical tourism - same myths, same mistakes?

This website looks familiar

25 January, 2016

An industry where ownership of content counts for little

Governments boost medical tourism

10 December, 2015

When governments fund medical tourism...the rewards are significant

GHTC's new lineup

05 November, 2015

Global Healthcare Travel Council strengthens its team

Growing industry

22 September, 2015

Fertility tourism... A complex market niche

Accountability issues for the MTA

01 September, 2015

The MTA.... when will the hype and misinformation stop?

Patient choice

29 July, 2015

Comparing hospital performance and informing patient choice

Cross border care

29 July, 2015

The EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare: Update

Growing in popularity

09 July, 2015

When will medical tourism reach the tipping point? (Part 1)

Medical tourism is safer than you think

01 April, 2015

World Medical Tourism Day: Today’s the day!

What problems?

09 March, 2015

The top five burning issues in medical tourism

Tear up the rules

26 February, 2015

Two more medical tourism facilitators break UK advertising regulations

Know your market

20 February, 2015

Malaysia “boob job” advertisement banned in UK

Let's (not) do it again!

08 January, 2015

Five medical tourism mistakes that will be repeated in 2015

Should I stay or should I go

29 October, 2014

Would you travel abroad for plastic surgery?

Challenge UK

21 October, 2014

The internationalisation of UK healthcare…. and the challenge for medical tourism destinations

What's the EU Directive?

07 October, 2014

What do patients know about the EU Directive?

Power to the patient

17 September, 2014

Patient empowerment as a driver for medical tourism

Why were they arrested?

02 September, 2014

Ashya King: Why are these UK parents seeking proton beam therapy abroad?

Best in Europe?

27 June, 2014

Want to be the best healthcare provider in Europe? Here’s how…

Talk the talk

19 June, 2014

Medical tourism… all talk, little action and no budget?

Medical tourism: all talk, no action

09 June, 2014

How do you spend your marketing budget?

It didn't happen, or did it

16 May, 2014

Has the EU given doctors the "right to be forgotten" when medical tourism goes wrong?

Facelift Gangnam Style!

23 April, 2014

Patients need certificates to prove their identity

Printing Press

22 April, 2014

Is certification about quality, or just owning a printer?

The numbers game: 4

04 April, 2014

Is medical tourism really 9% of GDP?

Mandatory certification

03 April, 2014

Governments suggest medical tourists should be treated to a higher standard

Fly2Cosmetic... Going anywhere?

01 April, 2014

Can this newest business make a splash?

Botched bodies

20 March, 2014

Cosmetic surgery abroad under the spotlight

At what price?

24 January, 2014

How patient's chose their medical care.

How much??

20 January, 2014

Medical tourism.... at what price? (Part two)

At what price?

19 December, 2013

Is cost of care the only factor?

Five medical tourism myths

04 October, 2013

Sorting out fact from fiction

Facilitator kickbacks

06 September, 2013

Critics draw attention to financial relationships between referrers and hospitals

Medical abuse

15 July, 2013

Stem cell therapies show medical tourism's darker side.

Time for regulation?

28 June, 2013

New research into cosmetic surgery tourism

Looks matter

03 May, 2013

The perfect body matters, but does the perfect hospital?

Tourism in Nigeria?

26 April, 2013

Nigeria wants to be a medical tourism destination... Seriously.

10 tips for presentations

28 February, 2013

10 tips for presenting at a medical tourism event

Top ten of 2012

02 January, 2013

The most popular medical tourism articles of 2012

I won an award!

20 November, 2012

Do awards mean anything in the medical tourism industry?

Experts needed!

02 November, 2012

Is the medical tourism industry struggling from a lack of understanding?

Marketing a destination

02 October, 2012

How can we measure a destination's attractiveness?

Dealing with negativity

03 July, 2012

Negative reviews are facts of life, and dealing with them more important than ever

The numbers game: 3

24 May, 2012

Medical tourism skyrockets, or does it?

Is it about price?

04 May, 2012

Price is used to judge quality, but quality is also used

Classes of medical tourists

10 April, 2012

Who do businesses want to attract?

Keeping the customer satisfied

23 March, 2012

The Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism Survey draws some startling conclusions

New standards for cosmetic surgery

09 February, 2012

Should Europe regulate cosmetic surgery tourism

PIP controversy

19 January, 2012

With PIP implants still grabbing headlines what do people do if they aren't satisfied?

Must do better

09 December, 2011

The 2011 Medical Tourism Survey raises concerns over treatment and customer service

A talk about Kevin

18 November, 2011

A look at the wider world of blogging and why I write this blog

Beware the "brandjacker"

13 October, 2011

It can be all too easy for a domain name speculator to hijack your brand

Is cosmetic surgery tourism safe?

15 August, 2011

A new survey highlights surgeons' concerns of cosmetic surgery abroad

Google's abandoned health records

01 July, 2011

Google retires Google Health, scrapping plans for "global patient records"

Actions not words

16 June, 2011

Why you should believe your customers actions not their claims.

After the gold rush

06 May, 2011

What have we learned from the gold rush of medical tourism?

A new dawn

15 February, 2011

Cross-border healthcare could cause a surge of patient numbers from abroad

The numbers game: 2

13 January, 2011

What exactly is a medical tourist anyway?

Is medical tourism safe?

10 December, 2010

Can the patient ever be sure that the treatment will work?

The global healthcare problem

08 November, 2010

Is medical tourism the solution?

Accidental medical tourism

06 October, 2010

Treating tourists is a far more mature industry, what can we learn from them?

The slumbering giant

27 August, 2010

How the NHS is posed to become a major figure in medical tourism

UK regulation changes

24 August, 2010

The rise of infertility treatment in the UK may be self limiting

Lessons from the gold rush

27 July, 2010

Medical tourism is a boom industry, but do miners or saloon owners strike it big?

Let's hear the patient's voice

25 May, 2010

The IMTJ survey revealed some interesting insight into the state of the industry

Destination Wales

29 April, 2010

Why would a US patient travel to Wales for sinus surgery?

US healthcare reform

02 April, 2010

How does the US healthcare system stand up against the UK's?

New insight into infertility tourism

01 April, 2010

A new paper highlights the growth of 'infertility tourism' in Europe

Light in the tunnel

02 February, 2010

Is medical tourism on the road to recovery?

Outlook for 2010

14 January, 2010

Was 2009 a good year for medical tourism?

Korea's medical tourism

14 December, 2009

South Korea may be a latecomer but may be the industry's big winners

The dental capital of Europe

19 October, 2009

Budapest's facilities are second to none, so why is going abroad about cost not quality?

Practice makes perfect

29 September, 2009

New doctors cost lives, but can healthcare statistics help patients make better choices?

Transparency and fraud

22 September, 2009

How trustworthy are services bought online in world of medical tourism?

Dental doubts

17 September, 2009

The Irish Dental Association publishes a survey raising doubts on medical tourism

IVF in Europe

01 July, 2009

Keith Pollard talks on upswing of IVF clinics in Europe

A bitter lesson

11 June, 2009

What can we learn from the Clydebank failure?

Patient choice

28 May, 2009

Does the NHS offering choice of hospitals provide lessons for medical tourism

War of the words

15 April, 2009

Medical tourism or medical travel?

Challenges of the industry

14 April, 2009

A recent conference in Budapest highlighted challenges of the recession

A word of warning

13 April, 2009

A woman from Wales is seeking a case against a Belgian clinic in the UK courts

An all time high

25 March, 2009

NHS employs more staff now than at any point

American tourists dream

12 March, 2009

Changes to America's healthcare system may kill the dream of the American tourist

EU votes on medical tourism

10 March, 2009

Members vote on changes to EU Cross Border Healthcare

The nod from the Lords

25 February, 2009

The Cross Border Healthcare directive is slowly making it's way through the government

Smoke and mirrors

18 February, 2009

When is a medical tourism facilitator a medical travel agent?

What can we learn

15 January, 2009

Can we make any predictions from previous recessions?

How well written are websites?

12 January, 2009

Many medical travellers are turned off by poorly written websites

Marketing in a downturn

08 January, 2009

Discussing conflicting views on marketing during economic downturn

Marketing in a downturn

08 January, 2009

Discussing conflicting views on marketing during economic downturn

What can Google tell us?

01 December, 2008

Can meta-data tell us more about healthcare?

Survival of the fittest

01 December, 2008

How will the medical tourism industry respond to the global recession?

Predicting the future

13 November, 2008

The latest NHS hospital data may show where future demand for medical tourism lies

How to run a conference

13 November, 2008

The top ten recommendations for a medical tourism conference organiser

Ratings and reviews

22 October, 2008

We look at Treatment Abroad's new rating and review system.

What is a name?

28 August, 2008

How much would you pay for a .com?

Boosting health tourism

02 July, 2008

Will creation of a Cross Border Healthcare systems boost medical tourism

Making the right choice

25 May, 2008

Online services are springing up, but can they help people make the right choice?

The numbers game

13 May, 2008

Do the numbers of medical tourism make sense?

A code of practice

11 March, 2008

Treatment Abroad have introduced a new code of practice for healthcare providers

MRSA concerns

31 January, 2008

Are infection rates driving patients abroad?

Cross-border Healthcare delayed

29 January, 2008

Cross-border healthcare could be delayed, redrafted or withdrawn

Driving patients abroad

10 January, 2008

High costs sent patients abroad for dentistry

Cross-border Healthcare boost

19 December, 2007

The new EU directive hopes to boost international medical travel

Tourism without travel?

14 December, 2007

Patients are willing to travel abroad for treatments, how about down the motorway?

NHS pays for treatment abroad

04 December, 2007

A British patient successfully recouped costs of treatment abroad from the NHS

EU boosting medical tourism

26 November, 2007

New proposals may increase patient mobility in Europe

EU boosting medical tourism

26 November, 2007

New proposals may increase patient mobility in Europe

Under fire

20 November, 2007

More and more attention is being drawn to quality of treatment abroad

Under fire

20 November, 2007

More and more attention is being drawn to quality of treatment abroad

Good news for medical tourism

14 November, 2007

A new index provides some insights into the UK as a source for outbound medical tourist

Good news for medical tourism

14 November, 2007

A new index provides some insights into the UK as a source for outbound medical tourist

Hot off the presses

11 November, 2007

The UK press provides favourable coverage to medical tourism

How many medical tourists?

18 April, 2007

We've completed the first survey of medical tourism market

IMTA announced

18 April, 2007

The IMTA seeks to represent medical travellers

A boom abroad

01 December, 2006

Cosmetic surgery is becoming acceptable in the UK, and the industry booming

Going cheaply

03 October, 2006

We have just published an independent survey of medical tourism prices

Destination: India

02 October, 2006

Is India the top global destination for medical tourism?

NHS going overseas

02 October, 2006

Should the NHS extend patient choice to hospitals overseas?

A growth business

01 October, 2006

More and more patients are travelling afield for cosmetic surgery

Author Profile

Keith Pollard

I am CEO of Intuition Communication Ltd, a web publishing business in the healthcare sector. Our sites include International Medical Travel Journal, Treatment Abroad, the medical tourism portal, DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal and Private Healthcare UK, the UK's leading site for private healthcare services. I am a regular speaker and commentator on medical tourism and the independent healthcare sector.

Recent Posts

Unique value proposition in medical tourism

18 May, 2017

The unique value proposition in medical tourism... What's yours?

Indian medical tourism worth 8 billion?

26 January, 2017

India medical tourism market: Worth $8 billion? The reality...

What kind of bird is IMTJ?

10 January, 2017

"A bird of a different feather in the colourful aviary of medical tourism"... But what kind of bird?

view all