Globalization of health care delivery in the United States through medical tourism


Ethics and Business Law

Date of this version


Document Type



medical tourism


This study highlights some of the inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system and determines what effect medical tourism has had on the U.S. and global health care supply chains. This study also calls attention to insufficient health communication efforts to inform uninsured or underinsured medical tourists about the benefits and risks and determines the managerial and cost implications of various surgical procedures on the global health care system into the future. This study evaluated 3 years (2005, 2007, and 2011) of actual and projected surgical cost data. The authors selected 3 countries for analysis: the United States, India, and Thailand. The surgeries chosen for evaluation were total knee replacement (knee arthroplasty), hip replacement (hip arthroplasty), and heart bypass (coronary artery bypass graft). Comparisons of costs were made using Monte Carlo simulation with variability encapsulated by triangular distributions. The results are staggering. In 2005, the amount of money lost to India and Thailand on just these 3 surgeries because of cost inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system was between 1.3 to 2 billion dollars. In 2011, because many more Americans are expected to travel overseas for health care, this amount is anticipated to rise to between 20 and 30.2 billion dollars. Therefore, more attention should be paid to health communication efforts that truly illustrate the benefits/risks of medical travel. The challenge of finding reliable data for surgeries performed and associated surgical cost estimates was mitigated by the use of a Monte Carlo simulation of triangular distributions. The implications from this study are clear: If the U.S. health care industry is unable to eliminate waste and inefficiency and thus curb rising costs, it will continue to lose surgical revenue to foreign health providers

Published in

Journal of Health Communication

Citation/Other Information

17(2), 177-198.

DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2011.585699