Medical tourism represents a controversial but high growth business across the globe, or at least it did prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
This term, which broadly refers to people travelling abroad in a bid to obtain medical treatment, typically involves individuals from less-developed countries visiting major medical centres in more developed economies such as the US and the UK.
The market has evolved immensely of late, and not only as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of most international borders. Make no mistake; technologies such as blockchain are having a huge impact on medical tourism, but how will this market continue to change in the future?
Medical Tourism – The Facts and Figures
In terms of growth, the medical tourism sector has definitely grown considerably over the course of the last decade or so.
In total, the number of medical tourists to all countries in 2017 was estimated to be in the region of 14 and 16 million. At the same time, the number of global medical tourists is expected to increase by around 25% per annum in the near-term, although this does not allow for the short term interruption caused by Covid-19.
While the size of the market is clearly growing, the question that remains is how blockchain can revolutionise the medical tourism space?
Well, let’s start by defining trust as the expectation held by consumers that their chosen service provider is dependable and reliable, and in the case of medical tourism this applies to both the competency of medical staff members and the laws that protect them in their destination country.
Of course, sourcing this information through a trustworthy medium can be challenging, making it hard to make informed decisions. This is where blockchain comes into play, as this technology can provide an immutable and inexhaustible source of records that are decentralized and capable of presenting trusted information to patients.
Remember, the core advantage of blockchain is its capacity to drive transparency across a range of markets, from the volatile and incredibly high-volume forex market to medical tourism and even electronic record keeping for patients.
Digitising Medical Tourism in the Modern Age
This brings us neatly onto the electronic health records (EHRs), which undoubtedly represent the future of healthcare across the globe.
While we’ve already seen EHRs implemented globally, they remain scattered across a disproportionate number of healthcare systems, creating a disjointed approach that undermines the core unifying purpose of digitising information in the first place.
This is particularly problematic when seeking out treatment overseas, with issues such as accessibility and the lack of integration exacerbated across international borders. This creates a certain degree of inoperability, while it also raises significant issues pertaining to care and safety in terms of a patient’s medical history.
However, the decentralised nature of blockchain and its accessibility across the globe means that it can provide a solution to these issues, by creating a universal source of EHRs within a single, transparent system.
This would not only safeguard patients (which should always be the main priority when considering technological healthcare changes), but it would also make it easier for medical tourists to protect their own interests should they wish to make a legal claim or have their records transferred seamlessly from one provider to another.