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Until now, one of the most accepted definition for medical tourism involved necessarily crossing a border. However, it appears that any person becomes a “tourist” in his own country as soon as that person leave the immediate local area. Moreover, it is normal to estimate the impact of tourism with the levels of expenditures of the person making such trip. The most common type of expenditure is the cost of transport that could only be gasoline in certain case of medical migration.

If a person who does not have to travel outside of the immediate area to receive treatment or care would not have to incur costs other than those related to his treatment or care, it becomes clear that if the same person leaves the mentioned area, expenditures that are unrelated to treatment or care will be included in the tourism expenditure statistics for a given region.

From this point of view, the concept of “medical tourist” should therefore include expenditures unrelated to treatment or care since these are included in standard tourism statistics as shown in Figure 2, and as mentioned by Menvielle (2012). What we are looking for is a defined concept that could help us to understand better the phenomenon and permit the measurement of the complete impact of it, not just an accumulation of medical fees paid around the world.

Therefore, we have a measurable basic point to evaluate the impact of medical tourism in each region: the price paid for a treatment or care, plus the expenditures incurred during the travel (food, transport fees, lodging, etc.) that are not include in the medical program.

Moreover, when someone decides to travel to receive treatment or medical care, this trip is often accompanied. Currently, the companion is not statistically considered to be a medical tourist but is it or not? Without this need for treatment abroad, the accompanying person would probably not have had to travel. Its expenses are therefore directly linked to the fact that it is a medical trip and should therefore also be considered as an “indirect medical tourist”. We will see that both direct and indirect medical tourism expenses fit under the designation of medical tourism.

How can we build reliable statistics based on such a definition that can be adequately verified and compiled? The philosophic conceptualisation of the medical tourism is not valuable. We need a clear concept, that permit two things: have statistics that can be measured each year and have an evaluation of the market, based on valuable numbers. The evaluation of this market is currently based on an estimation of the medical expenses but what about all other expenses related to the medical travels that are already compiled as standard tourism data like its presented in Fig.2?

Types of medical tourism

According to the nomenclature presented by Deloitte in its report Evolving medical tourism in Canada, medical tourism could be classified into 3 categories: inbound, outbound and Intra-boundary.

We will present you an extension of those types of medical tourism by adding numerous of variables allowing classification and that should be integrated into a multidimensional model allowing us to better understand the phenomenon. The influence of the medical tourism activity is not just related to private and public medical infrastructure but with the accommodation capacity and other standard tourism infrastructure.

Research in the area

To better understand the phenomenon of medical tourism, follow our monthly tickets or research published by the IIRMM members and other partners.

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