More and more people are traveling abroad for medical treatment than ever, with that number expected to rise significantly over the next decade. For receiving countries, this can be a welcome boost to healthcare funding; for countries who are losing patients, however, it exposes the cracks in their healthcare systems which must be filled before it’s too late.
Canada is in a strange place when it comes to medical tourism. As well as a destination for ‘tourists’, citizens are also going in the opposite direction in search for healthcare.
Outbound medical tourism
So why are Canadians going abroad? Under the single payer system, healthcare is affordable and available to almost all citizens, but for treatments that aren’t publicly funded or easily accessible – such as orthopaedic procedures and liposuction – people are looking elsewhere. For cosmetic surgery, it can be a lot cheaper to look abroad than in local, private clinics.
Like many other Global North countries, Canada is also struggling with an ageing population, with more citizens now aged over 65 than under 15. The strain such a demographic distribution puts on a healthcare system is twofold: waiting times increase as older citizens access healthcare more often, and a gap in funding appears as less income is generated to contribute to the public system.
These waiting times caused in part by the ageing population are also contributing to Canadians looking elsewhere for treatment, but Canada has the potential – and indeed have been laying the groundwork– to use medical tourism to their own advantage.
Citizens from the USA in particular are drawn to their northern neighbours due to the lower prices coupled with stats that are just as impressive if not better than in the States.
However, countries such as Thailand and India are typically favoured by individuals seeking cosmetic procedures, but Canada do have the potential to bring themselves to the forefront of medical tourism, boasting extremely good services in cancer treatment.
With medical tourism set to rise by 25% over the next ten years, Canada will want the coin to land on the right side.