Medical tourism skyrockets, or does it?

This week another medical tourism news story hit the headlines. According to the New York Daily News, “Medical tourism skyrockets…Turnover is expected to total $100 billion in 2012, compared with $79 billion in 2010”

This week another medical tourism news story hit the headlines. According to the New York Daily News, “Medical tourism skyrockets…Turnover is expected to total $100 billion in 2012, compared with $79 billion in 2010”.
I picked up the“news” story this week from various sources; it’s been re-published multiple times over through re-tweets, LinkedIn discussions and blog postings.
Great news for those who are interested in investing in medical tourism, or in expanding their medical tourism activities!
Or is it…….?
If you read it in the New York Daily News just last week, it must be true…surely?
If it was re-tweeted and re-posted by medical tourism experts/consultants/advisers it must be true…. surely?
Well…not necessarily.
Here’s a great example of medical tourism hype and how if enough people repeat something enough times, a myth becomes accepted truth.

Tracking down the source

Let’s track down how this news story arose and see if we can separate fact from fiction.
I actually get a few mentions in the New York News article (hey…that must add some credibility to the story…), so there’s a clue to how this news story started. My quote “medical tourism is not global, it’s regional”, and the other quotes are sourced from presentations made at the European Medical Travel Conference in Berlin in April this year. The “Turnover is expected to total $100 billion in 2012…” quote is based on a slide from a presentation at EMTC 2012 by Dubai Healthcare City.
The news item doesn’t have an author, so who actually wrote it? And can we believe what they report? The source is stated as AFP RELAXNEWS. This is a French newswire “dedicated to leisure and lifestyle”. A newswire reports news (or creates news items…) that are then supplied to a network of publications who cannot afford to employ sufficient in-house writers to provide all of their content.
If Dubai Healthcare City is quoting the data in a presentation… it must be true?
The speaker (quite rightly) references the source of the data to KPMG.
If it’s KPMG data… it must be true?
Or is it…….?

Where did KPMG get the data?

Take a look at KPMG’s Issues Monitor for May 2011. You’ll see this statement: …”the global medical tourism industry is growing at a rate of 20-30% annually, and by 2012…expected to reach US$100 billion etc etc”.
But… It’s not KPMG data. KPMG is simply re-stating data that they have got from somewhere else (and they haven’t checked out). The statement is referenced to two sources. Here are the two sources:

  • The first is to “Business Standard, December 11 2010”. Business Standard is an Indian newspaper. The article reads “the medical tourism sector is set to become a $100 billion sector by 2012”. The article is again supplied by a newswire (Press Trust of India) as opposed to being written by an accredited journalist. It references a Frost and Sullivan “report”.
  • The second reference is to a Frost and Sullivan press release (not a report), entitled “Malaysia’s Medical Tourism Industry has healthy vitals” published in April 2010. The press release contains various information about the Malaysia market… but nothing about the global market.

Now, we’re getting somewhere… if it’s in a Frost and Sullivan press release… it just has to be true, surely?
But…there’s nothing relating to the global medical tourism market in the press release. It doesn’t contain the data that KPMG are referencing.There’s no report.

So, where has the data come from?

I did some digging with Frost and Sullivan to see where the figures originate. There isn’t a published Frost and Sullivan report that states “the medical tourism sector is set to become a $100 billion sector by 2012”. It doesn’t exist.
The figures were produced by a consultant working for Frost & Sullivan who researched medical tourism for a client over two years ago. This is the same consultant who stated in 2010, that Thailand received 1.7 million medical tourists (that equates to one in ten visitors to Thailand being medical tourists). You may be thinking…”that’s probably a bit on the high side”.
According to Frost & Sullivan, “there is no report on this topic per se that would be available for public consumption”. They also acknowledge that “there may have been areas that have inflated the numbers.”

Two year old data becomes today’s news

Bear in mind that the figures whether they are fact or fiction or just wildly inaccurate were compiled over two years ago… but they are news today and have been given credibility through Twitter, Li nked In, blogs and so on. I’ve no doubt they will continue to re-appear.
And bear in mind that there will be some who will use these “facts” to support investment decisions, new initatives and marketing spend.
So there you go… the message, as always, is… never believe what you read on the internet about medical tourism numbers!


Previous articleNew national tourism strategy will help inbound medical tourism to the USA
Next articleWhat are the goals and benefits?
Keith Pollard
As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.