As health care costs have continued to rise in the US and other industrialized nations, medical tourism has become the boom industry of the 21st century. As patients rush to website like this that offer information on foreign medical treatment, investors are wondering how they can cash in on this cash cow.
Why Invest in Medical Tourism?
There are no hard and fast numbers for the impact of medical tourism on the global economy, due to the large number of independent industries, facilities, and countries involved. Some reports estimate that over 10 million people seek treatment in another country each year and that that number will grow to 15 million within a few years. Factor in an estimated $3,500-$5,000 price tag per visit (in USD), and that could result in over $65 billion (USD) in annual spending on medical tourism by the end of the decade. Conservative estimates for present day spending are in the neighborhood of $50 billion (USD).
The one-two punch of cheaper treatment combined with an exotic trip makes medical tourism an almost irresistible alternative to seeking medical care at home. Factor into that the reality that many foreign hospitals offer medical technology and care that are equal to or better than that in the US and that some experimental treatments for cancer, infertility, and other conditions are not available here and it is plain to see that medical tourism is not going away any time soon.
How to Invest in Medical Tourism
In June of this year a Menlo Park venture capital firm announced that it was investing more than $8 million in a Chinese medical tourism company. This ground-breaking deal was the first time that China allowed foreign investment in medical tourism. While this deal made headlines around the world, there are actually many opportunities for average investors to capitalize on medical tourism.
NOTE: Most of these investment opportunities are in foreign countries and require buying shares on foreign exchange markets. Use an experienced foreign broker and conduct due diligence regarding foreign investment before making any investment.
Here are some of the basic places to look for investment opportunities:
- hospitals and clinics specializing in foreign patients
- airlines and airports serving medical tourism hot spots
- hotels partnering with clinics and hospitals
- medical equipment and software companies
Investing means choices. By doing thorough research a savvy investor can decide to put money in Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, one of the top-ranked hospitals in the world, or to invest in Fortis Healthcare, which operates hospitals on three continents, including some of the top hospitals in India.
When it comes to investing in medical hardware and systems, think specifics. Some companies, like Biosensors, create medical devices, while others create large diagnostic machines or advanced systems for electronic medical records. Still others design software for robotic surgery. All of these advanced technologies are being employed in foreign hospitals that conduct millions of procedures a year. And some of these are US-based companies and, therefore, easier to invest in.
Every year more people discover medical tourism as an option. In recent years, some employers and insurance companies have begun covering foreign treatment for specific conditions and encouraging employees to look outside the borders. As this trend continues, the opportunities for investment will grow with it.