2012 Volume 39 Issue 6 Pages 844-848
Thanks to the convenience of the internet and expanded global travel options, medical tourism – the practice of travelling to another country to receive medical care – has become so popular that some fifty countries now receive patients from outside their borders. Where the flow of patients had once been overwhelmingly from developing countries to the industrialized world, a significant stream of patients now travel in the opposite direction. In an expanding market, Asia is fast becoming a hub for medical tourism. As most Asian hospitals serving this market operate on a for-profit basis, and thus have a powerful incentive to pursue medical tourism as a new source of revenue, they can be regarded as instrumental to the growth of medical tourism in Asia. Japan has been in step with the trend: international medical exchange (the acceptance of foreign patients) was incorporated in the “New Growth Strategy” announced by the Cabinet in 2010. Medical tourism can be challenging for participating medical institutions in that it involves dealing with different cultures and different languages. While working to resolve these issues, Japan will need to proactively market Japanese medical treatment through appropriate publicity while promoting two-way medical exchange through enhanced interaction with foreign counterparts.