Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean have a virtually untapped resource in medical tourism. Of course, there are places that offer this, but the extent to which we could be benefitting from such an industry is massive and not truly being exploited.
We have focused a lot on health and wellness tourism. According to dobusinessjamaica.com in their ‘Health and Wellness Tourism’ report: “The Global Spa and Wellness Summit estimates the size of the health and wellness market to be a US$438.6 billion global market within the wider US$3.2 trillion tourism market. It further estimated that the wellness tourism market will grow by 9.1 per cent per year … which is at a higher rate than traditional tourism is projected to grow.”
The report indicates that the goal is for Jamaica to be able to carve out at least one per cent of that market for itself within five years. This would enable the country to realise revenues of a minimum of US$70 million per year and employ “at least 1500 people”. If we achieve this goal, it would mean substantial growth of that sector, which is also very profitable but still only satisfying a small part of our overall potential.
This, however, indicates that we have a vision and we are moving in the right direction towards that vision. Adding medical tourism – when people travel abroad to access medical care – to these goals should be no major issue.
The medical tourism market is massive. Globalnewswire.com indicates that in 2020, it was generating income of US$102.6 billion. “The global medical tourism market is primarily driven by the increased demand for the cheap treatment for various chronic diseases available in the developing countries. Sometimes, the treatment of certain diseases is quite expensive in the home country, therefore, in order to obtain cheap and advanced treatments, people opt for visiting foreign countries.
It further indicates that according to Precedent Research, “the global medical tourism market size is projected to hit around US$286.1 billion by 2030 and with an expanding growth rate – a [compound annual growth rate], CAGR of 10.8 percent from 2021 to 2030”.
As we know, chronic non-communicable ailments, such as cancer, heart conditions, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke, continue to be a challenge worldwide. Jamaica is no exception, but we are uniquely positioned to provide holistic services not just in this department but also for elective and cosmetic procedures. We have very talented healthcare workers. One of the drawbacks, even though our services may be cheaper, is the ability to use health insurance as well as the expediency of payment. This, along with the need to have an interconnected system, can be solved with technology.
Jamaica is ahead of the game because it uses online, real time health insurance adjudication – something that is not very available or used worldwide. This means that quick and easy linkages can be made with overseas insurance providers that wish to be part of the medical tourism sector. Patients will benefit from even more reduced costs and peace of mind, and providers will get their payments in a quick and efficient manner.
INTER-CONNECTED HEALTH SYSTEM
The next important thing would be to have an inter-connected health system that is technology driven, accessible, reliable, and inter-operable. This system would drive a robust country-to-country electronic medical records system so that each physician would have a proper medical history to ensure continuity of care and the best and most appropriate treatment possible. We have this technology in Jamaica and would only need to extend its reach.
Our tourism industry is fully developed and is one of our most successful sectors. Coupled with this, a transition into medical tourism would be almost seamless. If the hotel sector comes on board, we could also have recovery centres that are linked through the technology. A patient’s information can be shared within Jamaica and back to their country of origin to their personal physician where they can continue care on their return home.
This is the future and something that we can accomplish in a few years. We have all the required inputs, and I hope that it becomes part of the objectives to develop both the tourism and health sectors.