Medical tourism: Have illness, will travel

Medical tourism: Have illness, will travel(CNN) — Medical tourism is one of the hottest topics in health care as patients around the world are increasingly traveling abroad for treatment.

Wockhardt Hospitals in India actively target international patients.

Josef Woodman, author of Patients Beyond Borders, a guide to medical tourism, told CNN that two to three million people travel outside their home country for treatment each year, while consultancy firm Deloitte calculates that 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for treatment last year.

The top regional destination for medical tourists is Asia, with Singapore, Thailand and India leading the way. Those countries are home to private health care chains that target international patients and are building modern, high-tech hospitals with a reputation for quality care. See more medical tourism hotspots »

Bumrungrad International Limited (BIL), based in Thailand, owns and operates over 70 health care facilities in seven countries. According to BIL, its Bangkok flagship hospital treats over 400,000 foreign patients a year, with over 90,000 coming from the Middle East.

Parkway Health, a Singaporean hospital chain, says the city of Singapore attracted approximately 450,000 international patients last year, and in India, the Apollo Hospitals Group says it has treated more than 60,000 foreign patients in the last five years.

What these chains have in common is that at least some of their hospitals are accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI), the global arm of an American nonprofit organization that accredits most U. S. hospitals. That provides overseas patients with the assurance that their treatment will be of an internationally recognized standard.

Dr. Ajaya Jha, director of neuroscience at Max Hospital in New Delhi, told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that medical tourism to India was being driven by a lack of available health care in neighboring countries, and by the lower cost of treatment in India compared with developed countries.

"Slowly we’re developing a reputation for having the best technology in the world and some of best people in the world to do this," said Jha.

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