Global healthcare?

Views and theories on cross-border competition for patients and the future of health and wellness tourism.

Health tourism covers medical treatment and operations performed outside the patient's own country, with the person concerned mostly staying in the destination country for no longer than a holiday might last. Health tourists travel from industrialised countries to emerging countries in the hope of receiving good quality at low prices. People from developing countries look to industrialised countries for treatment of higher quality. There is no such thing as a typical health tourist, because all of them are after the very latest in technology and quality. They are increasingly keen to make their own decisions about their health.

By contrast, wellness tourism is mainly a “staycation” phenomenon. The predominantly female clientele uses the main facilities on offer in Europe's Alpine region covering Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. Switzerland is seen as an example of best practice, having succeeded in integrating wellness into the “Switzerland” brand of tourism and health.

The future of health tourism will be shaped by increasing globalisation, demographic changes, advances in biomedical research, lifestyle changes and the logic associated with consumer goods markets. The authors of Working Paper 4 assume that providers in the West, given the high prices and good infrastructure available locally, are more likely to profit from niche areas of health tourism. The situation in emerging countries is rather different, since these have the capacity to cover the growing demand for treatment.

Working Paper 4

Sigrist, S., & Fenner, S. (2009). Gesundheit global? Zürich: Careum. PDF