About Medical Tourism

...Definition, Scope and some Disambiguation

The Definition

“Services offered by a Medical Doctor (Physician) – or under the supervision of a Medical Doctor – which includes some travel”.


Even Medical Tourism has “sub-divisions” (specialties or areas of clinical focus).
The “lion’s share” involves “Surgical Procedures”, most falling under the following “Specialties”, “Disciplines” or “clinical focus” (a partial / selective listing):

  • Plastic / Cosmetic Surgery

  • Orthopedic Surgery

  • Ophthalmology / Ophthalmic Surgery

  • Cardiac Surgery

  • Neurosurgery

  • Bariatric Surgery

“Medical Tourism” also includes:

  • Assisted Reproduction - in vitro fertilization (IVF)

  • Renal Dialysis – Abroad

  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Cancer Treatment (Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy)

  • Sports Medicine Abroad

Some Disambiguation

“Medical Tourism” by no means includes Dental Tourism (another of the Health Tourism Segments). Dentistry is formally a distinct and independent Healthcare Discipline.

Under “Medical Tourism”, a further important distinction that needs to be made is between:

  • Essential Medical Services (the cost of which, as a rule, is covered by Health Insurance and National Health Systems)

  • Services regarded as Discretionary (which are paid for “out of pocket”)

Note: Some refer to Discretionary Services as “Elective”. Strictly speaking this is not correct – since surgeons consider Elective Procedures to be those which may or may not be “necessary” – but which are not “emergencies” – and can be “scheduled”.
The distinction between the two can be “blurred” and have “grey zones”. And we are also seeing some once Discretionary Services now being classified as Essential (e.g., Bariatric Surgery for morbid obesity and even Lasik Procedures for vision correction).