Speakers at the IMTJ Summit

Blog

Keith Pollard, Managing Editor, IMTJ, UK, gives us an insight into The medical tourism numbers game.

Keith PollardWe’ve all got used to the idea that you can’t trust everything you read on the internet – but we’re not so quick to question ‘official’ statistics.

That’s all very well if the statistics are collected in a uniform, consistent matter, but when it comes to medical travel industry stats that’s just not the case.

Countries are using use wildly different methods to count, and even define, medical tourists. For example, if you went to Thailand for an operation you’d be classed as a new patient at every interaction.

From an initial consultation, to a blood test, to the operation itself and then post-op physio, it’s quite feasible that one patient could be counted as 15 medical tourists.

Then there’s the question of what makes a medical tourist. In some parts of the world simply having an international passport is all it takes, regardless of whether you’re living and working in that country.

All of this is confusing for the patient, but it also has huge ramifications for the industry.

If investors, be they private equity firms, healthcare organisations or governments, are to be attracted they need to be able to make informed judgements on the opportunities. Without robust numbers that’s just not possible.

The outcome? Investors will get their fingers burnt and the industry will fail to thrive and meet its true potential. And there is great potential – it’s a growing market, but for that to continue we need to better understand it.

So what’s the answer? How do we get all countries to define and collect medical tourist data in the same way?

At the IMTJ Medical Travel Summit I’ll be proposing that we start small – get a couple of countries on board and show them what a difference robust data will make.

It’s not until people understand the benefits of adopting international standards for defining and counting medical tourists that we’ll get a true change. But I strongly believe it’s what we need to guarantee the industry’s future growth – it’s time to make official statistics count.