The latest NHS hospital data may show where future demand for medical tourism lies

The latest data on hospital activity within the UK National Health Service provides a useful indicator of where future demand for medical tourism may lie.

The latest data on hospital activity within the UK National Health Service provides a useful indicator of where future demand for medical tourism may lie. One of the advantages of the UK public health system is that with one provider….the NHS, and one payor….the NHS it means that an enormous amount of meaningful data can be captured about the state of the nation’s health, about demand for health services and about how the health profile of the population is changing

Like many developed countries with established health systems, the UK is facing the challenge of meeting the needs of an ageing population at a time when there is massive pressure to reduce or put a hold on public spending, and in effect reduce expenditure on health services. All UK hospitals collect data in the same way (well almost…) and the data is collected centrally by the NHS.

The following data is taken from the recent report “Hospital Episode Statistics: Admitted Patient Care – England 2009/10”, published by the NHS Information Centre.

Take a look at how demand for NHS hospital services has changed over the last ten years. First let’s examine the age profile of patients admitted to UK hospitals:

In 2009/10 there were:

  • 16,806,200 hospital stays, a 38 per cent rise on 1999/2000.
  • 1,939,190 stays for patients aged 0 to 14; a 15 per cent rise on 1999/2000.
  • 7,333,110 stays for patients aged 15 to 59; a 29 per cent rise on 1999/2000.
  • 3,642,940 stays for patients aged 60 to 74; a 48 per cent rise on 1999/2000.
  • 3,837,990 stays for patients aged 75 and over, a 66 per cent rise on 1999/2000.

We’re living longer, and we’re putting incredible pressure on hospital services. The average age of a patient increased from 46 to 51. Fortunately for the NHS, the 38% increase in patient numbers was to some extent offset by efficiencies – average length of hospital stay fell by 28 per cent, from 7.8 days to 5.6 days.
If you are targeting countries for medical tourism business, you need to understand the health problems that affect that country’s population and that over stretch its health services either now or in the future.
In the UK over the last ten years:

  • Admissions for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (including conditions such as arthritis, joint disorders and back problems) have grown at a faster rate than any other group of diagnoses; by 82 per cent (from 618,660 admissions in 1999/2000 to 1,126,010 in 2009/10).
  • The number of admissions due to obesity rose by 972 per cent!
  • The number of admissions wholly due to alcohol rose 54 per cent.

So…… if you’re in the medical tourism business and you’re targeting the UK or other Western/developed markets , and you’re working on your five year plan…..
…..give some thought to where future demand for medical tourism is likely to come from and tailor your service offering accordingly.
If you want to read the report in detail, you can view a full version of the report here.

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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.