A recently published academic paper states that, despite universal health care for Maldivians, outbound medical travel is driven by shortages in the local health system and the desire for better quality of health care than is available at home.
‘Understanding medical travel from a source country perspective: a cross sectional study of the experiences of medical travellers from the Maldives’ is an academic paper by Mariyam Suzana, Helen Walls, Richard Smith and Johanna Hanefeld, and has been published in the online magazine Globalization and Health 2018.
According to the paper:
“The government of Maldives offers universal health care for its people that includes subsidised treatment abroad for services unavailable in the country. By the end of the first year of the scheme approximately US$11.6 m had been spent by the government of Maldives to treat patients abroad. In this study, affordability, continuity and quality of this care were assessed from the perspective of the medical traveller to provide recommendations for safer and more cost effective medical travel policy.
Despite universal health care, a substantial proportion of Maldivian travellers have not accessed the government subsidy, and a third reported not having sufficient funds for the treatment episode abroad. Satisfaction with treatment received was high amongst travellers but concern for the continuity of care was very high, and more than a third of the patients had experienced complications arising from the treatment overseas.
Medical travel from the Maldives is driven by shortages in the local health system and the desire for better quality of health care than is available at home.
Maldivian medical travellers mostly go to India and Sri Lanka due to the geographic proximity. Treatment ranges from critical diseases to routine health checks.
With a bargaining power of more than 78,000 patients annually, according to a BMC Health report in 2015, a more comprehensive package that includes better hospital pricing, accommodation, food, and travel arrangements could be negotiated by the Maldivian government with the foreign hospitals, airlines, and other governments.
Satisfaction with treatment received was high amongst travellers but concern for the continuity of care was very high, and more than a third of the patients experienced complications arising from the treatment overseas. As the patients had travelled for a wide variety of medical treatments, establishing cost effective measures of preventive and follow up care at the home country may help to reduce medical travel.
The findings highlight the need for government initiated screening of providers, and monitoring and evaluation of their services and success rates, to support Maldivian patients and doctors by allowing them to make informed healthcare decisions.”