Medical tourism: assessing the evidence on treatment abroad

Maturitas. 2010 May;66(1):27-32. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.01.017. Epub 2010 Feb 24.


The review focuses on one growing dimension of health care globalisation - medical tourism, whereby consumers elect to travel across borders or to overseas destinations to receive their treatment. Such treatments include cosmetic and dental surgery; cardio, orthopaedic and bariatric surgery; IVF treatment; and organ and tissue transplantation. The review sought to identify the medical tourist literature for out-of-pocket payments, focusing wherever possible on evidence and experience pertaining to patients in mid-life and beyond. Despite increasing media interest and coverage hard empirical findings pertaining to out-of-pocket medical tourism are rare. Despite a number of countries offering relatively low cost treatments we know very little about many of the numbers and key indicators on medical tourism. The narrative review traverses discussion on medical tourist markets, consumer choice, clinical outcomes, quality and safety, and ethical and legal dimensions. The narrative review draws attention to gaps in research evidence and strengthens the call for more empirical research on the role, process and outcomes of medical tourism. In concluding it makes suggestion for the content of such a strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Health Care Sector* / economics
  • Health Care Sector* / ethics
  • Health Care Sector* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Humans
  • Medical Tourism* / economics
  • Medical Tourism* / ethics
  • Medical Tourism* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Treatment Outcome