Inside the Startups Tapping Into the $439B Medical Tourism Market

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Medical tourism — traveling with the intent of accessing affordable healthcare in another country — has become an increasingly popular route for those without health insurance or without the means for expensive procedures. The market appeals to a broad range of cases — from plastic surgery, dental procedures, and Lasik, to life-saving treatments. Currently, the global market is estimated to be worth $439B, and every year over 1.3M Americans travel internationally for health care. 

The global medical tourism market is expected to grow 25% per year for the next five years, making it a lucrative opportunity for companies trying to tap into the market. NewtonX delved into these opportunities by surveying 110 executives at companies tapping into the medical tourism market — from platforms that connect patients with doctors around the world, to specialized treatment services targeting foreigners, to medical tourism insurance. The data and insights in this article are informed by the results of the NewtonX survey. 

Is American Healthcare Too Expensive And Difficult to Access? There’s a Medical Tourism App For That

Of the 15M medical tourists every year, Americans only make up 1.4M. However, the share of Americans traveling for medical care is expected to grow at an even faster pace than global growth. Bloomberg ranked the U.S. 50th in the world for healthcare coverage, despite the fact that healthcare accounts for 17% of the nation’s GDP. Due to high costs and subpar coverage options, medical tourists can save between 30% and 80% on procedures outside the US.

Medical tourism is not without its issues, however — which is why it’s so ripe for disruption from startups. Between visa approval issues, insurance, documentation, and the simple issue of finding a reputable doctor who specializes in a certain treatment at the right price, the logistics of medical tourism can be daunting. 

One of the newest players in the space, Doctours, aims to fix the full logistics supply chain of medical tourism. The company, operating out of an Austin, TX incubator, facilitates the search for and comparison of the cost of procedures, enables patients to connect with doctors and book procedures including in vitro fertilization, plastic surgery, weight loss surgery, dental work and lasik eye surgery. Doctours also assembles itineraries with different options for flights and hotels based on the needs of the patient.

Other companies, like GloboMD, target only specific procedures and offer more limited concierge systems for individuals interested in medical tourism. Still others, such as Medigo, have tapped into the growing market for medical tourism offered through businesses. 

Still, it’s somewhat surprising that there aren’t more businesses in the space. The average cost per medical visitor is between $4,000 and $6,000 per visit, in cash – meaning that the financial opportunity in the industry is profound. 

Increasing Investment and an Upsurge in Growth: the Outlook for Medical Tourism Over the Next Decade

Multiple prestigious US medical centers, including Harvard, Boston University, the Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins have established clinics and/or hospitals outside the US in order to capitalize on foreign medical tourism. There are currently over 700 hospitals and medical departments globally that are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), a US nonprofit that accredits hygienic, safe, and reputable medical centers. 

As medical tourism becomes more regulated through American systems, its popularity will likely grow (barring an overhaul in the American health system). The companies that capitalize on this need will be part of a rapidly growing, highly lucrative market.

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