Why do medical tourists travel to where they do? The role of networks in determining medical travel.

Hanefeld, J; Lunt, N; Smith, R; Horsfall, D; (2014) Why do medical tourists travel to where they do? The role of networks in determining medical travel. Social science & medicine (1982), 124. pp. 356-63. ISSN 0277-9536 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.016

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: Evidence on medical tourism, including patient motivation, is increasing. Existing studies have focused on identifying push and pull factors across different types of treatment, for example cosmetic or bariatric surgery, or on groups, such as diaspora patients returning 'home' for treatment. Less attention has been on why individuals travel to specific locations or providers and on how this decision is made. The paper focused on the role of networks, defined as linkages - formal and informal - between individual providers, patients and facilitators to explain why and where patients travel. Findings are based on a recently completed, two year research project, which examined the effects of medical tourism on the UK NHS. Research included in-depth interviews with 77 returning medical tourists and over sixty managers, medical travel facilitators, clinicians and providers of medical tourism in recipient countries to understand the medical tourism industry. Interviews were conducted between 2011 and 2012, recorded and transcribed, or documented through note taking. Authors undertook a thematic analysis of interviews to identify treatment pathways by patients, and professional linkages between clinicians and facilitators to understand choice of treatment destination. The results highlight that across a large sample of patients travelling for a variety of conditions from dental treatment, cosmetic and bariatric surgery, through to specialist care the role of networks is critical to understand choice of treatment, provider and destination. While distance, costs, expertise and availability of treatment all were factors influencing patients' decision to travel, choice of destination and provider was largely the result of informal networks, including web fora, personal recommendations and support groups. Where patients were referred by UK clinicians or facilitators these followed informal networks. In conclusion, investigating medical travel through focus on networks of patients and providers opens up novel conception of medical tourism, deepening understanding of patterns of travel by combining investigation of industry with patient motivation.<br/>

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
PubMed ID: 24976006
Web of Science ID: 348255800043
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/1805435


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