Journal article Open Access

Medical tourism's impact for health systems: A study from three Asian countries

Ala`a Nimer AbuKhalifeh; Erwin Martinez Faller

Medical tourism is a growing phenomenon with policy implications for health systems, particularly of destination countries. Private actors and governments in Southeast Asia are promoting the medical tourist industry, but the potential impact on health systems, particularly in terms of equity in access and availability for local consumers, is unclear. This article presents a conceptual framework that outlines the policy implications of medical tourism’s growth for health systems, illustration on the cases of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, three provincial centres for medical tourism, via an extensive review of academic and grey literature. Variables for further analysis of the potential impact of medical tourism on health systems are also identified. The framework can provide a basis for empirical, in country studies weighing the benefits and disadvantages of medical tourism for health systems. The policy implications described are of particular relevance for policymakers and industry practitioners in other Southeast Asian countries with similar health systems where governments have expressed interest in facilitating the growing of the medical tourist industry.

SUBMITTED: June 2015. REVISION SUBMITTED: September 2015. ACCEPTED: November 2015. REFEREED ANONYMOUSLY. PUBLISHED ONLINE: 10 DEC 2015
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