Migrants may be the biggest users of cross-border healthcare in Europe


New research suggests that migrants to EU countries may prefer to go home for healthcare, not just for a short time, but for their lifetime after a permanent move to a new country.

The research is based on 2007 figures and is only on one EU country and one country source of migrants within that country. But no similar studies have been done. The question that should fascinate medical tourism, and not within the scope of this research, is whether or not the next generation, and those who were migrants as young children, still have a need or desire to travel to their parents’ home country for medical treatment?

“Use of cross-border healthcare services among ethnic Danes, Turkish immigrants and Turkish descendants in Denmark: a combined survey and registry study” for BMC Health Services Research, is an abstract published in Biomed in advance of the full report. The authors are Signe Smith Nielsen, Suzan Yazici, Signe Gronwald Petersen, Anne Leonora Blaakilde and Allan Krasnik

Abstract (provisional) from BioMed:


Healthcare obtained abroad may conflict with care received in the country of residence. A special concern for immigrants has been raised as they may have stronger links to healthcare services abroad. Our objective was to investigate use of healthcare in a foreign country in Turkish immigrants, their descendants, and ethnic Danes.


The study was based on a nationwide survey in 2007 with 372 Turkish immigrants, 496 descendants, and 1,131 ethnic Danes aged 18--66. Data were linked to registry data on socioeconomic factors. Using logistic regression models, use of doctor, specialist doctor, hospital, dentist in a foreign country as well as medicine from abroad were estimated. Analyses were adjusted for socioeconomic factors and health symptoms.


Overall, 26.6% among Turkish immigrants made use of cross-border healthcare, followed by 19.4% among their descendants to 6.7% among ethnic Danes. With ethnic Danes as the reference group, Turkish immigrants were seen to have made increased use of general practitioners, specialist doctors, hospitals, and dentists in a foreign country, while Turkish descendants had made increased use of specialist doctors and borderline statistically significant increased use of hospitals and dentists, but not general practitioners. For medicine, we found no differences among the men, but women with an immigrant background made considerably greater use, compared with ethnic Danish women. Socioeconomic position and health symptoms had a fairly explanatory effect on the use in the different groups.


Use of cross-border healthcare may have consequences for the continuity of care, including conflicts in the medical treatment, for the patient. Nonetheless, it may be aligned with the patient's preferences and thereby beneficial for the patient. We need more information about reasons for obtaining cross-border healthcare among immigrants residing in European countries, and the consequences for the patient and the healthcare systems, including the quality of care. The Danish healthcare system needs to be aware of the significant healthcare consumption by immigrants, especially medicine among women, outside Denmark's borders.”

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.



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