In recent years, the concept of medical tourism has become increasingly relevant. It is no coincidence that many countries around the world pay particular attention to the creation and development of modern, effective medical tourism services. The reason has to do with the vital advantages – benefits that concern both the patients themselves and the countries that receive the “health travelers”.
- The benefits for the patient when he chooses to travel to receive a specific medical
intervention may include: the improved cost of the service, the quality of the service and overall health-care, the comparison of the waiting time in his country of origin for the provision of a similar service and finally the opportunity to combine medical care with entertainment/travel.
- The benefits for countries that accept “health travelers” are mainly financial. The economic activity developed worldwide by the most popular countries supporting the institution of medical tourism is worth mentioning. According to the Medical Tourism Association, approximately 14 million people in the world travel to other countries in search of medical care annually, and the global market size from this activity is worth 50 – 70 billion dollars.
In particular, regarding Ophthalmology, this belongs to the category of medical services that our country can offer through medical tourism with great success. Modern medical equipment combined with advanced surgical techniques contributing to the fact that most eye surgeries are painless and short one-day procedures that do not require hospitalization and an overnight stay in a clinic have helped advance this interest. They can therefore be combined with a few days of recovery at tourist resorts in our country.
The hundreds of ophthalmological patients who daily undergo eye operations and treatments on their eyes, can be a large source of attraction for medical tourism in Greece. This can include correction of refractive errors (myopia – hypermetropia – astigmatism) with Excimer laser, cataract extraction or aesthetic eyelid surgery, etc. In addition, the foreign patient can continue his eye treatments in conditions like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy with intravitreal injections outside of his home country, thus having the opportunity to enjoy his vacation at the same time.
It is important to mention that in recent years due to the improved Greek infrastructure, the creation of modern private Day Care Surgical Units in Ophthalmology with high organizational standards and specialized medical and nursing staff, mainly in the big cities but also in smaller destinations, is an important factor which essentially contributes to the development of medical tourism.
The competitive advantages of Greece in the medical tourism market are certainly numerous, including the great touristic interest, many and well-trained doctors, notable private health units, competitive prices compared to various foreign countries, the developed hotel infrastructure and finally the very good climate, Greek cuisine and hospitality.
Thus, the promotion of medical tourism in Greece could be key for our country to win in the tripartite security-health-tourism. In this spirit, the Greek Ministry of Tourism announced last March that it is designing, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), a new legal framework that will set the conditions for the development of health and wellness tourism that will focus on the quality of care and patient safety. The Greek economy and local communities, according to the research and policy institute diaNEosis, can benefit significantly from the development of medical tourism. For example, attracting an additional 1 million elderly tourists who will spend approximately 1.5 billion EUR can boost GDP by 3.7 billion EUR and create 60,000 new jobs.
So the future of our country from medical tourism seems bright. In the success of this purpose, Ophthalmology plays an important share. The gathering of specialized ophthalmologists with extensive experience in high-precision technologies with the existence & operation of a modern and certified application framework successfully support the project for the promotion of medical tourism in Greece.
Konstantinos Tourmouzis, MBBS, BSc
Royal United Hospital, United Kingdom
Scientific Associate of Athens Ophthalmic Day Surgery Unit