Health outsourcing is a form of health care in which people travel for benefits, or order medical products from overseas suppliers. The vast majority of health outsourcing involves Americans traveling to Asia for surgical procedures, but people from numerous countries travel all over the world for health care. You may also hear health outsourcing referred to as a “medical vacation” or “surgery vacation,” referencing the fact that many people take advantage of their overseas trips to do a bit of exploring.
People usually take medical vacations because they are offered low prices on medical procedures. When people are uninsured, they may feel that they cannot afford the prices for surgeries and other procedures at home, so they cast a net further afield to look for lower prices elsewhere. In places like Southeast Asia, medical procedures are often much less expensive, for a variety of reasons, making the idea of taking a trip to save a substantial sum rather appealing. Some employers even offer to help employees pay for surgeries if they can find low-cost overseas alternatives, recognizing the need for healthy employees.
Sometimes, the medical care offered overseas may also be superior. In India, for example, many high quality hospitals do very innovative work, leading patients to travel from all over the world for cutting-edge procedures from world-class physicians. Many patients do their research carefully, considering both cost and quality of care and determining that overseas hospitals will meet their needs more effectively than local hospitals.
The rising popularity of health outsourcing in the 1990s led many hospitals to start programs designed to appeal to patients. In Southeast Asia, medical spas arose, where patients could enjoy luxury accommodations while receiving cosmetic procedures or going in for surgeries like hip replacements. While some people have the perception that hospitals in the developing world are all dirty with substandard conditions, this is not in fact the case, and many facilities promote their state of the art facilities, highly qualified staff, and low rates of complications. Health outsourcing is also good for overseas hospitals, because these patients spend money in the regional community, benefiting the local economy.
In addition to traveling to receive care, patients can also order products from overseas. In areas of the world where the costs for prescription drugs are very high, patients may network with international pharmacies to get the drugs they need, and in some countries, this practice is even encouraged. Medical equipment such as wheelchairs may also be sourced from overseas providers at low cost.