Globalization in the healthcare industry originated from an ancient idea. The first documented global initiative in the history of healthcare happened at the begging of the 7th century in Asia when King Songtsen Gampo, who is the founder of the Tibetan Empire, organized the first recorded international medical conference which was recommended by his Nepalese and Chinese wives (Mittelman 2012). He invited physicians from India, China, Persia, Nepal and Kashmir to travel down to Tibetan and to come along with medical scripts from their diverse traditions to translate them into Tibetan for study.
The first multinational healthcare conference was successful, and a second conference was held again in the 8th century. Physicians from the previous countries including new ones like Afghanistan attended with the oblige to provide at least a medical script for discussion and translation. The reports were combined into a single book called the Gyu-zhi (The four Medical Trantras) which turn out to be the foundation of all consequent Tibetan Buddhist Medicine and still being studied to date. In 2009 and 2011, the medical astrological association of Tibetan, whose job is to promote and preserve Tibetan medicine, published the 1st English translation of the first three tantras of the Gyu-zhi. The Tibetan Remedy has become globalized and has resulted in the local practices of healing, being transformed in both the west and Tibet.
Western medical science developed from universal traditional healthcare (Mittelman 2012). The revolution accorded during the religious wars of reformation and Counter-Reformation, in the 17th and 18th century. The dangers and risks encouraged scientists to become specialized, concentrating on a single subject and excluding others. These strategies indeed accelerated the growth of western science and technology.
The healthcare industry is considered as one of the biggest industries in the world which has a direct effect on the quality of life of individuals in every country. Healthcare is the act of taking the necessary and preventive medical procedure to treat, diagnose and prevent illness, diseases and other physical and mental damages in humans. Healthcare is delivered by doctors and specialists in pharmacy, nursing, medicine allied health, dentistry and other healthcare providers. The healthcare industry is a sector that offers services to treat patients with rehabilitative, curative and preventive care. This paper therefore access the globalization of the modern healthcare industry – an appraisal
Globalization of the Modern Healthcare Industry
Technology has greatly eliminated many of the barriers to communication including cost time and distance. The world is currently a cyberspace, only a click away. The rebellion in information technology-global, wireless, prompt communication from machine to machine, human to machine and human to human has fastened development not only in healthcare and medicine but in all convergence.
The Globalization of modern health care industries can best be explained with activities like innovation in medical technology, circulation of patients, and circulation of health professionals, health regulatory bodies, medical transportation and medical travel as well as the factors and forces that makes the health care industry globalized.
Circulation of patients
The circulation or movement of patients is referred to as medical tourism which is travelling to another country for medical care at a lower price or to gain medical treatment that might not be available in their home country. It has been estimated that millions of people travel to other countries of the world for numerous types of surgeries, fertility treatments, dental procedures and ophthalmic procedures each year. Oxford economics and VISA reported that the medical tourism industry was valued at 100 billion dollars with an estimated growth rate of up to 25% every year for the next 10 years. It has also been projected that 3 to 4 percent population of the world will travel abroad for healthcare and health-related treatments.
In its 2016 report, the industry-leading report listed 41 top destinations for patients seeking a high quality of health care or value-added services across the globe. In it, the United States is said to lead in terms of market share of healthcare travel spending, but other countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Asia and South Korea are thriving. China is expected to exceed US in the next 10 years due to high demand for advanced quality of care. The findings didn’t only span the global range but also did that of the age range. VISA expects 14 percent of all travellers to be older by 2025.
Meanwhile, a current survey found out that 88% of some travel abroad 2 to 3 times a year and that number continues to grow. VISA believes that medical tourism is primed to increase growth as more and more travellers pursue new treatments as well as lesser price or high-quality medical treatment not available in their home country.
Innovation in medical technology
Technology innovations are currently changing the healthcare industry. Out of the many industries that technology plays vital role in, healthcare is certainly one of the most significant. This union is responsible for saving and improving many lives around the world. Areas like pharmaceuticals, the development of medical equipment and devices, Biotechnology and more are contributing significantly to improving the health of people around the world (Singhal et al 2018). From larger technologies like robotic prosthetic limb and MRI machines to smaller innovations like ankle braces have made an incredible impact on medicine. With more hospitals around the world using medical technology like mobile devices, physicians now have more access to any type of information they need- from patient records to drug information within seconds.
These innovative technology devices are used globally to improve the health of patients. When a new medical technology is invented, it is been used in many hospitals globally to treat patients with various diseases. Innovation of technology in the healthcare industry remains to provide doctors with new ways to enhance the quality of care delivered to patients and to improve the state of global medical care (Reddy 2018 et al.). Through technology integration with areas like surgical procedures, medical telecommunication and better access to information, patients globally and the healthcare industry continue to benefit.
Medical travel intermediaries
Patients who do not have enough knowledge about medical facilities overseas coordinate their medical treatment through medical travel agencies. These medical intermediaries connect patients with physicians across the globe. A lot of medical agents recruit patients through the internet. These services work like specialized travel agents. For instance, Clients from Medtravel can choose 188 medical procedures from a menu from eight different countries: Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, India and Thailand.
The medical travel intermediaries screen and investigate customers who are physically well to be able to travel. These medical travel agencies normally have nurses and doctors to access the medical efficiency of procedures and assist patients to choose hospitals physicians.
Circulation of health professionals
The movement of health professionals across different countries has been a usual phenomenon. Most developing countries lack quality healthcare and health experts. Health professionals and specialists tend to travel to poorer countries in Africa like Niger and Sudan to provide the people with proper surgery and treatments. The circulation of health specialists like neuron surgeons across the world to offer service is also a reason why healthcare is characterized as a globalized industry.
On the other hand, health professionals are been exported from developing countries to developed nations for services. The major exporting countries are Philippines and India (World Bank 1992). The Philippines alone has lost almost 89,000 nurses and 14,000 doctors (Abel-Smith). This drain of health manpower mostly follow ways leading to Europe and North America imports worth billions to the beneficiary nations but lately, physicians have now been hired by Middle East nations and other Gulf states.
Factors and forces that make the healthcare industry globalized
Quality and cost are the most important factors considered by patients when choosing certain destinations for treatment. Many patients also consider services commonly found in hotels and resorts. Other factors include:
1. Lower cost treatment: The increasing cost of selective medical care in developed countries (e.g. Hong Kong, United Kingdom, unites states) is pushing patients to pursue cross-border options. It is estimated that about 1.6 million Americans travel to other countries for medical treatment and this number is expected to increase (Wiener 2017). Many patients from around the world now chose to travel to other countries like India, Mexico and Thailand to purchase the same or better-quality medical care at a lower cost. Medical care in these countries is of great quality and same as the care received in other developed countries.
2. The rising of good quality health care across the world (e.g. Mexico, Thailand, Costa Rica, Columbia, Korea, et al) is the main factor behind the globalization of the health care industry (Wiener 2017). The quality of medical care has increased worldwide. The quick increase in drug advancement and technology has risen in the past 10 years. People who are based in countries with poor healthcare tend to travel to countries where medical care is good and cheap.
3. Health experts: People travel across the world to get medical care from health professionals. Treatments like cosmetic surgery, heart transplant, brain surgery and fertility treatment are the few services that make patients seek health professionals. The health and well-being of a person are important and so looking for the best expert vital.
In conclusion, the healthcare industry is considered to be globalized due to activities like the circulation of patients, circulation of health professionals, medical transportation, medical travel intermediaries and health regulatory bodies. High Quality, low cost and health experts are the most important factors considered by patients when choosing certain destinations for treatment.
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Ms. Aisha Turaki Ibrahim is an Assistant Lecturer of the Department of Management, School of Arts, Management and Social Science, Skyline University Nigeria. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Business Management from Sheffield Hallam University (U.K)