(Editor’s note: This story was originally part of our test content on LinkedIn. We’re reposting it here with updates. We’ll have future medical tourism posts focusing on specific destinations in Europe.)
There’s a company based in Hamburg called Premier Healthcare Germany.
Medical group? Hospital? Health insurer? Clinic?
No, no, no and no.
Premier Healthcare Germany is a “medical tourism broker” that helps make it possible for people around the world to access German healthcare providers. And it’s a booming industry, especially for Americans who can’t afford U.S.medical prices. An estimated 1.6 million U.S. residents have traveled abroad for medical care, spending about $35 billion on procedures. A recent Newsweek post by Dr. Raza Sidiqqui states more than million people travel abroad for medical treatment every year. A just-released report by VISA and Oxford Economics values the industry at $439 billion.
According to a 2013 Forbes post, foreigners spent an estimated 800 million zlotys ($28.6 million) in 2011 at Polish medical facilities alone.
The phenomenon is not necessarily unique to Europe. The most popular destinations are reported to be Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Turkey and South Korea. But Americans in particular feel comfortable dealing with European healthcare professionals, says Molly Cruz of Medigo, a Berlin-based medical tourism broker, and besides like the idea of combining a vacation in Paris or Vienna with a relatively affordable medical procedure.
Now, the good news: As an expat living in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria or wherever in Europe, this is all on your doorstep. Because, make no mistake about it, this is as much about tourism opportunities as it is about healthcare. Well, a combination of travel and commerce … sort of like buying diamonds in Amsterdam, cases of wine in Provence or a car right off the assembly plant in Stuttgart.
You are in the right place at the right time, so getting special work done is going to be crazy affordable. How affordable?
According to Treatment Abroad, a British agency:
“No single country has the best prices across the board. For example: A single cycle of fertility treatment can cost over £4,000 [about $6,000] in the UK, but as little as £1,200 [about $1,800] in Turkey or Ukraine. Rhinoplasty (a nose job) typically costs around £3,800 [about $5,700] in the UK but just £1,200 [about $1,800] in Belgium or under £1,000 [about $1,500] in Poland. Dental implants can cost over £2,000 [about $3,000] in the UK but can be found using the same high-quality materials in Eastern Europe for just £500 [about $750].”
For older expats, that hip replacement you’ve been putting off because it’s $50,000 in the U.S. costs about $11,500 in Poland.
Medigo and its brethren help find resources for people looking for anything from oncologists to plastic surgery to teeth whitening. The Medigo web site lists, among its many resources:
• a hair transplant clinic in Budapest;
• a fertility clinic in Katowice, Poland;
• an ophthalmology group in Valencia, Spain;
• a dermatology center in Antalya, Turkey.
These medical tourism brokers also provide trip packages that include arranging hotels and transportation, and helping with paperwork, transfers, even sightseeing side trips.
Dental services have also become a big draw in the medical tourism world. According to Dentim Europe, a dentistry tourism firm, “Poland, Hungary, Russia, Croatia and the Czech Republic now represent the cream of the most popular ‘holidental’ directions in Europe. What’s more, Poland is also highly appreciated if you take the worldwide dental tourism into consideration. Located in the eighth place in the World league table, it is almost breathing down the necks of Mexico, Dubai and The Philippines.”
Europe has become an increasingly big player in the field, and not just the countries we think of with sophisticated infrastructures such as Great Britain, Germany and Sweden. Central European countries such as Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Latvia have well-equipped medical facilities, plenty of educational training but not the economies to support all this medical know-how.
To that extent, it’s a meeting of means and needs: countries with the educational development that far surpasses its residents’ ability to pay for it; and Americans and other wealthy First World tourists who have the ability to pay for it and are looking to combine healthcare, a medical bargain and a vacation in Europe.