Sun, Surgery and Cyberspace: The Role of the Internet in the Rise of Medical Tourism

Sun, Surgery and Cyberspace: The Role of the Internet in the Rise of Medical Tourism

Jerry. S. Eades (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-266-4.ch015
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Abstract

In the last few years, increasing attention has been paid by the media and the tourist industry to what has become known as ‘medical tourism’ sometimes also called ‘health’ or ‘wellness’ tourism. Before around 2000, these were hardly mentioned by the media at all. However, in one sense, medical tourism has a long history, as some of the information sites on the Internet are eager to point out. People have been travelling in search of medical treatment for millennia, whether in order to visit hot springs as in Poland, Hungary or Japan. Why this sudden interest? In this Chapter I argue that it is due to a combination of factors: the changing distribution of medical services and technologies, the growth of interest among both local medical practitioners in different parts of the world and travel agents, the clever packaging of tourism and medical services as a single product, and the availability of the Internet both to assemble and to disseminate information on these new products. The chapter covers the implications of these cases for the future of medical tourism, and its relations both with the medical and tourism industries.
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Introduction: The Rise Of Medical Tourism

In the last few years, increasing attention has been paid by the media and the tourist industry to what has become known as “medical tourism” sometimes also called ‘health’ or ‘wellness’ tourism. Before around 2000, these were hardly mentioned by the media at all, as a search of the LexisNexis database of major world sources shows (Table 1). According to LexisNexis, the number of news items from major news agencies and newspapers which mentioned it rose from zero around 1990, to over 2000 at present, and most of this increase has occurred since 2003.

Table 1.
Number of references to “medical tourism” in major English language news sources, 1992-2008
YearNumber
19928
199314
199426
199514
199612
199735
1998103
199926
200049
200195
2002151
2003234
2004548
2005737
20061349
20072335
2008 (January-August)1850

Source: LexisNexis, Major English Language News Sources (Retrieved 30 August 2008).

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