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Joanne Wojcik

Political unrest does not deter patients from seeking medical care overseas

December 15, 2013 - 6:00am

While political unrest may have deterred U.S. residents from visiting some foreign countries, for the most part it has had little detrimental effect on the growth in the medical tourism market, research shows.

The “2013 Medical Tourism Climate Survey” published by the International Medical Travel Journal found that 60% of clinics and hospitals reported growth in international patient numbers during the past 12 months, while 23% saw no increase and 17% saw a decline.

“We try to go to places with stable governments. We had concerns a few years ago in India after terrorist attacks there. There was a lot of news about how the terrorists had tried to single out Americans as targets. We did take some additional safety measures,” including having hospitals post guards on patient floors with international patients, said Rajesh Rao, founder and CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based IndUSHealth Inc., a medical tourism facilitator that works with corporate clients, including self-funded employers and benefit consultants.

“We were prepared to cancel a couple of planned surgeries, but ... the patients assessed the potential risks on their own and insisted on going. We told them if we see there were news reports of any other challenges with unrest, we would not allow them to go. Fortunately, there was no other trouble,” Mr. Rao said.