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The leader of India’s ruling party, Sonia Gandhi, underwent surgery abroad last week and is currently recuperating.

While few details have been released regarding her condition and treatment, media reports say she went to the United States for the procedure. One question that immediately comes to mind for many — why did she travel abroad for care when India is itself a global medical destination? This indicates an industry trend which implies that many medical tourists travel for higher quality, not just lower cost. While many attribute medical travel to the hunt for cheap treatment,  Gandhi’s reverse journey may be more representative of what’s actually happening – medical travel for higher quality, not lower price.

“Most [medical travelers] seek the world’s most advanced technology, better quality, or quicker access to medical care,” reads a 2008 report from The McKinsey Quarterly.

“The popular image of medical tourism is of someone flying to a distant country for low cost surgery,” wrote researcher Ian Youngman in the International Medical Travel Journal. “I believe this is a myth.”

Instead it seems that most medical travel for elective surgery covers a relatively short distance. Those traveling further across the globe generally do so for more intensive surgeries, fertility treatments, and alternative treatments for rare disease, wrote Youngman. In general, the greater the distance, the smaller the number of patients who will travel it.

Source: Christian Science Monitor 

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