Health & Education

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Medical Tourism

Medical tourism is a growing trend in the global healthcare industry, marked by individuals traveling to receive either better or more affordable medical care than is available in their place […]

Medical tourism is a growing trend in the global healthcare industry, marked by individuals traveling to receive either better or more affordable medical care than is available in their place of residence. Although domestic medical tourism is an important component of this industry, international medical tourism has seen tremendous growth within recent years. Patients Beyond Borders, a US-based not-for-profit that tracks medical tourism, estimates that the global medical tourism industry is currently worth approximately $38.5-55 billion annually, although it notes that reliable in-country data is not always available. Regardless, the increasing out-of-pocket expense of many medical procedures or inability to access adequate care in many countries has led to a marked growth in the market. The Medical Tourism Association (MTA) notes that medical tourists can save up to 90% on their medical costs.

CBS News notes that although Lebanon is not currently one of the major countries for medical tourism, it was once the top destination in the Middle East for many cosmetic procedures and it has the potential to be a hub for medical tourism in the future, with strong cardiology and oncology departments in several world-class hospitals. Increasingly, tourists are traveling to Lebanon for medical care, with international medical tourists accounting for around 20% of patients in hospitals that are seeking medical tourists, according to Executive Magazine. Lebanon’s Agency for Investment Development reports that the country’s medical tourism industry has grown by up to 30% per year since 2009.

The majority of the international medical tourists in Lebanon—around 80%—are from Arab countries, where the medical care is below the standard of what they can receive in Lebanon. Middle East Health Magazine notes that 85% of international medical tourists in Lebanon have traveled to receive non-cosmetic medical treatment. The magazine also notes that Lebanon is actively seeking to attract more non-Arab patients, such as those from Europe, North America, and Asia, to its medical centers.

The capital city of Beirut is home to the majority of Lebanon’s medical infrastructure, which total approximately 11,500 certified doctors, many of whom are trained internationally. Beirut’s Clemenceau Medical Center, affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, became the first hospital in Lebanon to receive an international medical tourism certification from the US-based Medical Travel Quality Alliance in September 2014. The certification is based on being able to meet the Medical Travel Quality Alliance’s standards of quality in 10 areas that impact a medical tourists health, care, and overall wellbeing. In anticipation of receiving medical tourists, the Clemenceau Medical Center offers a number of services including a multi-lingual patient coordinator, travel and hotel arrangements for the patient and family, scheduling of all necessary medical appointments, and even provides international patients with a Bill of Rights.

Certifications like that which Beirut’s Clemenceau Medical Center received will help reassure potential medical tourists of the quality of care and services they can expect to receive when coming to Lebanon for their health care. Increasing the number of medical centers in Lebanon with such an accreditation will help position the country as a preferred destination for medical tourism. In addition to medical centers like Clemenceau Medical Center, Lebanon also has a number of private medical tourism companies, including Health Tourism Lebanon and Patient Health Care, which help potential medical tourists and their families navigate the process of coming to Lebanon for their medical care.

The Lebanese government is helping to facilitate cooperation between the medical sector, travel agencies, and the Ministry of Tourism. Expansion of the medical sector has the potential to bring many new job opportunities to Lebanon, although recent instability in the region has threatened to reduce the number of those traveling to Lebanon for medical care. Nonetheless, Lebanon’s healthcare system remains well-respected—ranking 33 out of 193 countries—and is a growing destination for medical tourism.

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