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What Is Health Tourism? Inside the Travel Trend That Is Going Viral on TikTok

If you’ve spent any time on the health side of social media these days, you may have come across a recent phenomenon known as “health tourism” or “medical tourism.” So what exactly is this booming trend going viral on TikTok?

What is health tourism?

For those unfamiliar with the term, health tourism refers to the practice in which people will travel to different countries seeking medical procedures and treatments — but what’s the draw? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are numerous reasons for seeking out medical care in foreign countries.

For example, the price of treatments or procedures may be less expensive in certain countries. Many have documented trips to countries such as Turkey for discounted dental implants and hair transplant surgery.

Another draw to pursuing medical treatment in another country is cultural — receiving medical treatments and consultations from those who share your culture and language can ease a lot of the anxieties one might feel about receiving them.

Woman packing bags to travel
petrunjela/Getty Images

Finally, a traveler might be seeking out a treatment that is not yet available or approved within the United States.

What types of treatments are people trying to get?

…To dispel any misconceptions about medical tourism, not all medical travel is for cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast augmentation, liposuction, facelifts and rhinoplasty,” said Forbes in 2023.

“While those are popular, it may come as a surprise that dental procedures, heart valve replacements, fertility treatments and orthopedic surgeries are standard in the medical tourism industry.”

In a recently viral TikTok video shared by user bryn.elise, the creator shared her experience traveling to Turkey, where she received “the most in-depth checkup of my life.”

@bryn.elise

Trying the VIP checkup package 🫢 Memorial Hospital Bahçelievler📍 To make an appointment i just went to the Memorial.com.tr website and filled out the contact form 🙌 Or you can email memorial.eu@memorial.com.tr I’ll make a followup video sharing my results soon 😊

♬ original sound – Bryn Elise

In the video, she outlines a day full of medical tests she underwent as a part of her check-up. These included blood work, an EKG, a chest X-Ray, an abdominal ultrasound, a thyroid ultrasound, a visit to the gynecologist, the eye doctor, a stress test, a chest ultrasound and more.

A one-on-one meeting with an internal medicine doctor allowed her to go over the “30-plus scans, tests and cancer markers I was tested for in-depth, and I got to ask all my pressing questions about my health,” she explained. She summed up the video by sharing that the price of it all came out to $810.

What are the risks of health tourism?

While there are benefits to medical tourism, there are also risks. Some of these risks, according to the CDC, include that of infection as well as quality of care, as some countries have different criteria for medical licensing and accreditation.

Additional risks include that in which air travel after medical procedures might pose, such as blood clots, as well as continuity of care. If follow-up appointments are necessary after a procedure, the price can add up.

If you choose to pursue medical and health tourism, be sure to do your research prior, understand the risks, bring your medical records and properly prepare for your procedure, both before and after.


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