SFU launches first medical tourism website
Medicaltourismandme.com, a unique new website developed by Simon Fraser University’s Medical Tourism Research Group, uses the power of personal testimony to educate consumers about the perils and pluses of medical tourism.
The globally flourishing industry has tourists flocking to foreign countries for treatment of health problems they can’t easily get treated and financially covered within their home countries for a variety of reasons.
The sought-after procedures include every kind of surgery from elective treatments such as dental, cosmetic and in vitro fertilization to necessary or life-saving operations such as hip replacement and heart surgery.
Medicaltourismandme.com presents former medical tourists’ stories under three headings — your health, your home and your destination. They represent three perspectives from which the researchers want consumers to evaluate the practical and ethical concerns associated with medical tourism. They profile consumers weighing medical pros and cons; home countries saddled with returning medical tourists who may now have more medical problems than they left with; and medical-tourism-providing countries’ residents whose health care needs can be subjugated by the needs of incoming wealthier medical tourists.
“We’ve drawn on real stories from medical tourists to whom we’ve spoken in the hopes that these real experiences will be eye opening for people thinking about engaging in medical tourism,” says Jeremy Snyder.
The Medical Tourism Group member and SFU Faculty of Health Sciences associate professor is the website’s lead architect.
Snyder says there are virtually no official statistics on the number of people and countries involved in medical tourism or the extent to which they have good and bad experiences. Globally, the industry is largely unregulated. Prompted by academics’, doctors’ and consumers’ growing concerns about issues such as malpractice in destination countries and inadequate consumer guidelines, Snyder and his colleagues created an information sheet. It is the basis of their website.
“Historically, government and industry sources have provided limited consumer guidelines largely geared to addressing patient health and safety issues,” notes Snyder.
“They don’t capture third party issues such the extent to which medical tourism is preventing destination countries’ residents from accessing quality healthcare at home. Israel, for example, has recently restricted the use of public facilities for medical tourism for this reason.
“Several studies, including ours, have shown relying on industry sources for guidelines is problematic because communication of health risks is often biased.”
In developing the website’s consumer guidelines and suggested resources for further information, the researchers spent months consulting a wide breadth of stakeholders. They included medical tourists, medical tourism industry members, government groups, physicians, ethicists, academics and legal experts. The website has a section where medical tourists can contribute stories about their experiences on an ongoing basis.
They also studied ethical guidelines in related areas, such as tourism, public health resources and medical volunteering abroad. The researchers plan to have their website translated into French and Spanish.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded the information sheet’s and website’s creation.
Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries.
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