This presentation is part of: O10-1 (1906) Economic Development

Changing Economic Conditions and the Medical Tourism Industry

Milica Bookman, Ph.D, St. Joseph's University, 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19131

This research explores the medical tourism industry in light of recent global economic events, especially the increased price of transportation and the. Since 20th century medical tourism is based on the ability to cheaply transport western patients to doctors in developing countries, increased air fares are likely to have a huge effect on both demand and supply of medical services. The paper begins with an overview of the phenomenon of medical tourism and how and why it has grown over the past five years. The industry has been undergoing a transformation from a decentralized patient-driven phenomenon to a more sophisticated and organized effort involving insurance companies and employers. Projections about the potential economic impact of medical tourism on both destination and sender countries now abound. This paper takes the current evidence and scholarship one step further as it explores the effect of rising prices (inflation in general and in particular, the prices of oil, transportation, and labor). By providing evidence of rising prices of inputs into medical tourism, I will show that each destination country's comparative advantage will be negatively impacted and thus a competitive industry will become even more competitive as destination countries compete aggressively against each other. In conclusion, I expect to find that the initial enthusiasm about medical tourism (and its ability to relieve the healthcare crisis in sender countries such as the United States, as well as its ability to promote high rates of economic growth in destination countries such as India and Malaysia) will subside as the realities of the current global economic crisis close windows of opportunity just as they were becoming opened.