August 3, 2016

Global Medical Tourism Industry value – $439 billion!

by Keith Pollard

Fact or fiction? The latest claims published by the US based Medical Tourism Association (MTA). Does their latest claim hold any truth? Just how big is this market?

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Back in September last year, I wrote a post entitled, “The MTA…. when will the hype and misinformation stop?” where I highlighted some of the issues raised by this organisation’s hyping of the industry and the continuing publication of exaggerated claims that may mislead investors as to the real potential of the medical tourism sector.

Well… this week, the MTA is telling us: “Medical Tourism Industry Valued at $439B” and is “Poised for 25% Year-Over-Year Growth by 2025”. The MTA is publicising a recently released report published by VISA and Oxford Economics, entitled: “Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism“.

The MTA claims to have knowledge of the industry. The MTA claims to represent the interests of its members. The MTA claims “to provide an unbiased source of information”, and “to educate patients, insurance companies, agents, brokers, consultants and physicians from around the world about the growth of medical tourism and the globalization of healthcare”.

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And the statement in its PR says: “This report and the rankings of the Medical Tourism Index™ provide a unique opportunity for investors seeking new ventures to make smart choices in destinations driving patient travel.

Well, I suggest that any investor considering a new medical tourism venture needs to look elsewhere for advice and information if he or she wants to make smart choices!

What the MTA should be saying is…. this report is clearly flawed…. it doesn’t present a true picture of our industry…. don’t rely on it to make investment decisions… here is what the industry really looks like.
But of course, they won’t say that. Because, despite presenting the MTA  as a non-profit association, the MTA’s founders are clearly in the business of maximising profit through selling conference registrations, sponsorships, advertising, certifications, consultancy etc etc. And I can only assume their view is that the more you can hype the industry, the more people are going to buy the stuff that they sell.

Well, the latest claims take the biscuit.

The medical tourism industry is worth $439 billion…

Take a deep breath… and think about that number. If you have the time, have a read of the report and see how VISA and Oxford Economics got to that number.

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Most of the report is about global travel trends, and the ageing population. It makes big assumptions. e.g.

  • ” As the world’s population ages, hundreds of thousands of travellers are expected to seek medical services outside their home country”

Says who? And on what basis?

  • “Using Visa transaction data we can see how much medical tourism has grown… By examining cross-border spending for medical services in more than 176 countries, we found the United States to be the single largest hub for medical tourism.”

So… ask yourself, what they actually mean by “cross-border spending for medical services”? How are they measuring government funded medical travel not paid for by Visa card? Does this mean that the figure is even bigger?

And it states some “medical tourism facts:

  • “$439 billion treatment current market”
  • “11 million medical tourists annually”

Do the basic Maths. That works out at an average revenue per patient of $40,000.

Does that sound right to you, given that a significant amount of medical travel is driven by low cost destinations? How does this compare to the average revenue per medical tourist reported in Malaysia’s medical tourism sector? Or the average revenue per medical tourist reported by Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand? Or the average revenue per medical tourist reported by Singapore’s Ministry of Health?

Subscribe to IMTJ and you might get some sensible answers to those questions. Come to an IMTJ event and you’ll get the real picture of where the industry is going. Buy an IMTJ report and you’ll see how we unpick the hype and exaggeration and tell what we do know and what we don’t know about the industry.

Of course, we’re in the business of making profit! But we’re not in the business of misleading our readers and our clients in the pursuit of profit. We’ve asked VISA and Oxford Economics to provide some explanation of how they came up with these gargantuan numbers. I doubt that we’ll get a reply.

But rest assured, if you’re running a medical tourism business, you’ve got nothing to worry about. A $439 billion treatment market and 25% year on year growth. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?