Medical tourists in Spain
Medical tourists treated within the private healthcare sector in Spain usually come from the following countries:
The United Kingdom
About 70.000 British medical tourists were reported, in 2007, to have travelled abroad to receive medical treatment. According to the “Healthcare Tourism in the UK: a brief overview” report, issued in April 2013 by the ICEX, top of the list medical specialties chosen by these medical travelers were odontology (for implants, crowns and veneers) and aesthetic surgery (for breast augmentation, tummy tuck, body liposuction, face lift, blepharoplasty and rhinoplasty).
A survey conducted by Treatment Abroad in March 2012, showed that the countries most visited by these British Medical Tourists were Belgium and Hungary (16%), Poland (10%), the Czech Republic (9%) and Turkey (9%). The British have been travelling abroad for years to receive medical treatment and the Eastern European countries were the first ones to respond to this specific demand. This is partly why these regions have become a quite traditional and well established destination among them.
Further data collected by this report showed that the most popular treatments for British medical tourists were: aesthetic surgery (42%), dental surgery and dental aesthetic (32%), bariatric surgery (4%), fertility treatments (IVF and donor egg IVF) and orthopedic surgery for hip and knee surgeries (4%).
Other top listed treatments by the British are heart surgery and the refractive surgery techniques for ophthalmology (laser eye surgery).
According to these figures, Hungary is the favorite destination for dental treatment (about 38%), Belgium for the aesthetic surgery (18%) and Belgium and the Zech Republic for obesity surgeries (with respectively 50% and 21%), while, the leaders for fertility treatments are Spain, Cyprus and the Zech Republic.
The German Medical Travelers usually know Spain quite well since they traditionally spend their holidays or reside there part of the year. Most have had previous positive experiences while attended by the Spanish healthcare system.
In Germany, the longest waiting times are headed by specialties like cardiology, heart surgery or the orthopedic surgery (hip and knee replacement). German medical tourists are progressively also getting interested in other cross-borders healthcare services such as the post-operative physiotherapy and the wellness programs.
This outbound segment of patients has been recurrently identified as a client with great potential for the Spanish healthcare centers interested in gaining weight on the international market. This increasing sector of Spanish tourism is also highly linked to the wellness sector. Russian patients usually seek medical treatments that range from heart surgery to oncology but are also getting more and more interested in all types of programmed surgeries.
Russians demand other kinds of treatments too like specific aesthetic surgeries, ophthalmology procedures or wellness programs.
Actually, Barcelona is the Spanish city with most medical tourists and its main objective is to attract part of the 70.000 Russian patients that travel every year to Germany, Switzerland and Austria to get medical treatment.
Italian medical tourists usually travel to Spain to get treated with fertility techniques like the IVF or the egg donor IVF.
Today, the Italian legislation on medically assisted reproduction is one of the most restrictive in Europe.
The French healthcare system is very renowned making it difficult for Spain to attract these patients. In fact, it is, together with Germany, one of its toughest competitors and a traditional receiver country for medical tourists on the European market.
This system has also managed to reduce waiting times for the performance of some specific medical treatments and surgeries.
France can, however, be a point of origin for medical travelers towards Spain when French patients are seeking one of the following medical treatments:
• Fertility treatments: since the Spanish Law is more open and since the Spanish system provides very advanced techniques in medically assisted reproduction.
• Dental treatments. Implants and dental aesthetics: Lower costs in Spain and the quasi non existing coverage of these procedures by the French Social Security System are some of the main motivating factors to travel abroad.
• Aesthetic surgery.
The French medical tourism flows to Spain could also be helped by its geographical nearness and the legislation on free movement of persons within the European Union.
The Scandinavian region
Spain is a traditional destination for all Scandinavian tourists. The Costa del Sol and Alicante are the main inbound Spanish areas of residence and though the Swedish healthcare system is highly rated, waiting times in other countries are shorter for oncology and cardiology treatments.
Motives of the Dutch travelers and their most chosen treatments are quite similar to those given by the German patients.
Most demanded treatments are: orthopaedic surgery (hip replacement) and cardiology-heart surgery techniques.
The United States of America
Despite the remoteness between the in and outbound countries, many Spanish medical tourism websites are trying to play the North American market based on the difference in prices and bearing in mind that the USA are the first country of origin for medical travelers on a worldwide scale.
The Americans are considered as potential medical tourists for Spain because it is still cheaper for them to travel there than to be treated in their home country.
Nonetheless, the access to this potential market is quite restricted due to the long-established relationship with destinations like Mexico, Thailand and India.
The Arab countries
The Maghreb and the Middle Eastern countries provide segments of the population with high purchasing power levels and willingness to travel.
Spain and, most especially, the Costa del Sol are long-standing destinations of the Arab citizens.
These patients are usually seeking medical treatments and specialties that are not available in their countries of origin like the Assisted Reproduction (IVF and egg donor IVF), the advanced techniques used in Cardiology, Orthopedic surgery and Traumatology, plus non invasive surgery and aesthetics.
The Gulf countries have historically been important issuing countries on a worldwide scale because they cover all their citizens’ medical costs even while abroad.
The United Arab Emirates spends over 2.000 million dollars every year to provide cross-border medical cover to its citizens.
In 2010, about 220.000 Saudi Arabia nationals travelled abroad to be treated.
Competency is however increasing as these outbound countries have established links with other receiving countries like Jordan where patients from the Gulf, Iraq, Soudan, Libya and Yemen are treated. According to the World Bank, Jordan is the fifth country in the world in terms of healthcare tourism volume, with over a 1.000 million dollars income.
The three main motives for Arab patients to select their potential destinations are: the distance, the availability and the quality-price ratio of services.