Over the years, people have traveled great distances for medical care for many different reasons. Some traveled due to the lack of quality care in their domestic markets, while others because of the extensive waiting periods for treatment brought about by government run socialized systems in countries like Canada and England (which the Obama Administration is currently pursuing, but that is a topic for another day).
In more contemporary times, Americans have been traveling abroad for medical treatment for economic reasons. A surgical procedure in the U.S. without the appropriate health insurance policy often devastates families financially. In fact, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. since 2004 is attributed to medical expenses.
It didn’t take long for uninsured and underinsured Americans to realize that world class medical treatment in places like Malaysia, Thailand, and India was a fraction of the cost in the U.S. This trend quickly became so popular that the mass media coined the term “medical tourism” to describe these unique travelers.
As many vested interest groups attempt to predict the future growth potential of medical tourism, the answer may be close at hand. According to recent studies presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) the number of patients in need of hip and knee replacement, is likely to surpass the number of surgeons available to perform them.
“One of the studies co-authored by Steven M. Kurtz, Ph.D., found that a major reason for the growth in patient demand for joint replacement is the increase in younger patients. Projections show that by 2011, more than 50 percent of patients requiring hip replacements will be under the age of 65; the knee-replacement patient population will reach that threshold by 2016. For primary total knee replacement, the fastest growing group of patients is in the 45-54 age category; the number of procedures performed in this age group is projected to grow from 59,077 in 2006 to 994,104 (an increase of 17 times) by 2030.“Joint replacement is generally thought of as a procedure for older people, over 65,” says Dr. Kurtz, corporate vice president and office director at Exponent, Inc., in Philadelphia. “Our projections show that younger people make up a big piece of the pie, and that is only going to increase if historical trends continue.”
If these projections come to fruition and the demand for joint replacement procedures out-strips the supply in North America in the coming years, these patients may want to consider the option to travel overseas. Joint replacement procedures are already among the most popular procedures facilitated by MedRetreat, the leading U.S.-based medical tourism facilitation agency.
For more information about medical tourism for joint replacements, please visit