Evolving medical tourism in Canada

Exploring a new frontier in health care

Medical tourism is an emerging global trend, one that has already taken root in Canada, but for which the future is still unclear. Over the past five years, Canadian governments have reduced the volume of insured medical services purchased out-of-country, but the costs of these services have more than doubled. At the same time, anecdotal reports suggest that Canadians are privately purchasing cosmetic and elective services at an increasing rate, though little data is available.

Many factors are influencing the growth and surrounding regulations of patients travelling for medical care:

  • Evolving medical tourism guidelines and international accreditation
  • Expanding and increasing sophistication of foreign medical tourism operations
  • Increasing provincial and local provider interest in supporting medical tourism through legislation and policy
  • Increasing demand for outpatient surgery and a drive to reduce wait times
  • Emerging consumer interest in medical tourism options
  • Economic constraints and changing financial incentives

Adding to the emerging state of medical tourism in Canada is growing policy and public attention to wait lists for key services, increasing consumer willingness to travel for health care services, and renewed direct-to-consumer marketing by medical tourism companies and foreign destinations. This growth presents opportunities for increased medical tourism in Canada – both for Canadians seeking care abroad and for establishing Canada as a medical tourism destination – and sets the stage for renewed focus on this health care trend by Canadian governments, providers and consumers.

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