What does medical tourism mean

Medical tourism - trend, statistics and opportunities for clinics

In a globalized world, patients are also becoming more and more mobile. Medical tourists are ready to travel halfway around the globe in search of adequate treatment. Germany, Switzerland and Austria are particularly popular destinations for international patients. Medical excellence, state-of-the-art technical equipment and a good price-performance ratio attract those interested in treatment from all over the world. Medical tourism has long been an economic factor for doctors and clinics that should not be underestimated. And it will gain in importance - because cross-border healthcare is still very much in vogue worldwide.

What is medical tourism?

Simply put, medical tourism or health tourism refers to the transnational use of medical services - a distinction is made between incoming medical tourism and outgoing medical tourism. Here we should only be interested in the former - that is, the one from whom those seeking treatment from abroad seek medical help in German-speaking countries.

It is not for nothing that the term is made up of medicine and tourism - because foreign patients often make use of not only medical, but also tourism services. It is not uncommon for people interested in treatment to travel with relatives and, if their health permits, combine the treatment with sightseeing and shopping. As a result, medical tourism also has a certain importance for the economy as a whole.

Lucrative gain for hospitals and doctors

Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon - but only since 1998 have German hospitals been allowed to withhold the additional proceeds from the treatment of foreign patients. This of course makes the acquisition of patients from abroad much more attractive and a worthwhile additional business in clinic management. According to estimates, an additional 1.2 billion euros flow into the coffers of hospitals and doctors in Germany alone. Switzerland also has similar numbers to offer. The profit generated can be invested in the most modern technical equipment, improvement of the personnel structure or the recruitment of renowned specialists. In this respect, medical tourism represents an improvement for the health system in German-speaking countries.

What are the statistics in medical tourism?

According to data from the credit card provider Visa, medical tourism is currently turning over 400 billion dollars worldwide. Forecasts indicate that around 4% of the world's population will use medical services in other countries by 2025. Admittedly, a rather far projected outlook, which can certainly be provided with question marks.

But the numbers already speak for themselves. In Germany alone, about250,000 medical tourists from 177 countriesto treat. Of it 100,000 inpatients in clinics treated. However, this also includes accidental hospital stays during a trip. According to estimates, targeted treatments for foreign patients in hospitals account for around 40-45%.

In Austria, where the state and social security institutions have a say in the use of services in the public health system, medical tourism is largely limited to private providers. The higher the proportion of foreign patients there. Some private hospitals have 10-15% willing to receive treatment from other countries.

Why do foreign patients come to Germany, Austria and Switzerland?

Anyone who comes to German-speaking countries for medical treatment does so for a variety of reasons. Probably the largest group of medical tourists consists of wealthy clients who expect better therapy in Germany, Switzerland or Austria than in their home country. The focus here is on the search for the highest quality standards and medical excellence - the costs involved are of secondary importance. This category of foreign patients spends an average of 80,000 euros on their treatment. The majority of the costs are paid for by the patient.

The second group is looking for price advantages compared to their home country. That may sound illogical at first, as the German health system is one of the most expensive in the world according to the OECD. But in comparison, medical services in German-speaking countries are cheaper than in some other countries. In a global comparison, Germany only ranks fourth.

Inadequate medical care and long waiting times

In addition, there are foreign patients whose health system does not meet the desired standards of medical care and technical equipment. These medical tourists rely on the expertise of clinics and doctors abroad for elective interventions and treatments. This group also consists mainly of self-payers.

Finally, there is a third group of medical tourists from other European countries. These are mainly sick people who would have to wait an unreasonably long time for a certain operation or treatment in their home country. In the Netherlands, for example, there are waiting times of over a year for knee surgery. Due to the EU Patient Mobility Directive, such patients can be treated in another EU country at the expense of the health insurance company. In terms of numbers, however, this group is negligible in our analysis.

Which specialist areas are particularly in demand in medical tourism?

In principle, medical tourists make use of the entire medical spectrum - from prevention to surgery and treatment to rehabilitation. However, the specialist areas of orthopedics, internal medicine, surgery and cardiology are particularly in demand. There are certainly country-specific features. Due to the reactor accident in Chernobyl, patients from the Ukraine, the CIS countries and the Baltic States are increasingly interested in the oncology department. From the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, people who want to treat metabolic diseases and their secondary diseases are more likely to come, due to their lifestyle. Usually these are diseases that affect the cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system and eyes.

In addition, there are specialist disciplines that are insufficiently represented in their home countries - such as child neurology. But the area of ​​high quality rehabilitation is also increasingly in demand. After an injury, athletes often opt for postoperative treatment in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. But stroke patients also often trust the high quality of rehabilitation in the German-speaking area.

What's the trend in medical tourism?

The trend towards treatment abroad is unbroken - even if the growth in medical tourism in Germany has recently slowed to 1.4%. The slower increasing rate of growth is mainly due to the poor economic situation in certain countries of origin. The ruble lost significantly in value against the dollar. As a result, sick people from Russia now have to pay more for their treatment abroad. As a result, the number of those from Russia willing to treat has decreased significantly. While Russian patients made up the majority of medical tourists in Germany a few years ago, they have now been replaced by foreign patients from the Arab region.

Arab patients are at the forefront

Looking at the past decade, the number of medical tourists from other countries has doubled. A particularly strong influx is recorded from the Gulf States. This also has to do with the steady tightening of entry requirements in the USA for citizens from Arab states. Since then, those seeking treatment from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have increased by a whopping 17%. But Saudi Arabia with 34% and Kuwait with 19% stand out in particular. Contrary to the popular belief that Arab patients are predominantly well-heeled members of the royal family, quite "normal" citizens also often make use of medical services in German-speaking countries. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, for example, anyone can apply to the government to cover the costs of treatment abroad - this is usually granted.

Although the influx of people seeking treatment from the Gulf States weakened somewhat last year due to the falling oil price, doctors and hospitals in German-speaking countries are still very popular. The countries of origin of the medical tourists vary depending on the destination country. Swiss clinics seem to attract more foreign patients from the Middle East and China, while in Austria mainly Russians, Arabs and Romanians are treated.

Main countries of origin of medical tourists:

  • Arab Gulf States
  • Russia
  • CIS countries
  • Baltic states
  • other European countries
  • Overseas
  • China

How can clinics reach Arab patients and those seeking treatment from abroad?

Every clinic and every doctor can benefit from the additional income generated by treating foreign patients. But how can wealthy clients from abroad be reached? Some German cities have sent so-called medical consultants on behalf of the tourism industry who advise potential medical tourists on site and refer them to the appropriate facilities - but so far these are few individual cases.

In this way, PRIMO MEDICO can support clinics and doctors in patient acquisition

PRIMO MEDICO brings potential patients from abroad together with doctors and clinics in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Our site offers those interested in treatment from all over the world the opportunity to find specialists and clinics for the desired treatment and to contact them directly. Patients can choose to search using various search functions themselves or to have PRIMO MEDICO help them with the search.

In order to reach international clients from the most important countries of origin, our website is available in four other languages ​​in addition to German: English, French, Russian and Arabic. In this way, foreign patients can find out about all the services of specialists who belong to our extensive network in their mother tongue. PRIMO MEDICO not only focuses on private clinics - well-known publicly owned clinics, university clinics and resident specialists are also attractive addresses for medical tourists.

Your meaningful presentation at PRIMO MEDICO

Membership in PRIMO MEDICO offers doctors and clinics effective help in acquiring patients from abroad. On our website, members have the opportunity to create a meaningful, representative profile of their hospital, center or practice. The entire range of services - whether diagnostics or therapy - as well as specialist areas and treating specialists are presented in detail.

The advantage is obvious - foreign patients will become aware of you via our portal and can find out directly about the services offered and medical excellence. In addition, we provide comprehensive information about the respective city to foreign patients after the clinic presentation. In order to make the stay as pleasant and uncomplicated as possible for foreign patients, we suggest suitable hotels, restaurants and service agencies and give tips for shopping and sightseeing.

They are interested? You can find out about our access requirements and guidelines on our website in advance. If you would like to become part of our network of renowned clinics and doctors, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to your inquiry!