Every year, about 7 million people grab their passports and fly abroad looking for quality, affordable medical care — everything from dental work to weight-loss surgery to cancer treatment. That's fuelling an industry worth as much as $40 billion, according to Patients Beyond Borders, a publisher of international medical travel guidebooks. Here are the top destinations for medical tourism:
Long known for sex-change procedures, Thailand offers some of the world's best values for a variety of health care. Major procedures can be 50-70% cheaper there than in the US, and the country had as many as 1.2 million medical tourists last year, making it the top destination.
Mexico now attracts more than 1 million visiting patients, many of whom are Hispanics from the US, according to Patients Beyond Borders. Dental work and weight-loss surgery are popular procedures.
The US, home to some of the world's top medical specialists, played host to as many as 800,000 international patients seeking help with the most diffi cult health conditions, according to Patients Beyond Borders. Despite its high prices, the country's world-class care for the hardest-to-treat cases made the US the third-most visited country for medical tourists last year.
The city state has one of the most sophisticated health care systems in the world, especially for cancer treatment. As many as 610,000 medical tourists visited the country in 2012, mostly from Indonesia. That makes the country the fourth-most visited place for medical tourists. Singapore has 22 facilities certifi ed by Joint Commission International, the US-based quality and safety accrediting organisation. That's 14 more than all of neighbouring Malaysia.
As many as 400,000 foreigners travelled to India in 2012 for health treatments, making it the fifth most-visited country for medical tourists. High-diffi culty operations such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery can be 90% less expensive in India than in the US.
Brazil is one of the leading places for plastic surgery with more than 4,500 licensed cosmetic surgeons. The country hosted about 180,000 medical tourists in 2012, making it the sixth most-popular destination. A nose job can be had for about 60% less than the cost of the procedure in the US; there's even plastic surgery available for your pet.
Some 110,000 foreigners visited Turkey in 2012 for medical treatment. The country, which has more American-accredited hospitals than any other nation, attracts many foreigners seeking inexpensive eye check-ups and surgery. A major procedure such as spinal fusion can be 60% cheaper than in the US.
Taiwan's health care facilities adhere to some of the highest standards in the world, which helped it attract 90,000 medical tourists in 2012. Taiwan has 22 health care facilities certifi ed by Joint Commission International - that's only 6 fewer than all of China. Major procedures such as a full facelift can be more than 50% cheaper in Taiwan than in the US.