This is an opinion editorial by Frankie Wallace, a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest.
Medical tourism is on the rise. Every year millions of Americans save between 40-80% in medical fees by crossing the border or taking a short plane ride to receive the care they need. Even after the pandemic slowed international travel, more people looked abroad for shorter wait times, better service, and lower fees.
Bitcoin can boost the medical tourism sector and help patients get the treatment they need at a price that is affordable. Bitcoin can make transactions abroad easier and ensure that everyone gets a fair deal.
Medical tourism has a bad reputation. It’s commonly associated with experimental treatments, suspicious surgeons, and concerning cosmetic procedures. However, these issues are largely overplayed and overstated. For millions, medical tourism is a lifeline that helps folks get the treatment they need at a price they can afford.
The CDC defines medical tourism as the practice of traveling to another country for medical care. Common medical tourism destinations include Canada, as well as countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
The CDC does warn that medical tourism carries risks. Flying shortly after surgery increases the patient’s risk of deep vein thrombosis. Medical tourists may be exposed to bacterial infection due to a lack of immunity and should research any care providers thoroughly before going through with treatment.
People elect to travel abroad for many different treatments. However, medical treatments are particularly popular for treatments that have shorter recovery times like cataract surgery. People who have cataract surgery can usually drive the day after treatment, so negotiating an airport shouldn’t be an issue.
Patients who are considering medical tourism should consult with their primary care provider before moving forward. The primary provider has a complete medical history and will know whether or not a procedure is viable. They’ll also be able to arrange follow-up care when patients arrive home.
Bitcoin transactions may be particularly important in the future, as the U.S. medical economy appears to be set for a black swan event following the pandemic. Trillions of dollars of medical debt have accumulated in the U.S., which may push folks to seek better service and lower costs abroad.
Medical debt is a serious issue in the U.S., though most people can avoid medical debt by researching billing codes and negotiating a payment plan that works for them. This may involve negotiations with partial payments in bitcoin, too.
Bitcoin has the potential to make medical tourism more affordable for all. This can close the care gap, and ensures that everyone has access to high-quality, reliable medical care.
This sentiment is echoed by Renée-Marie Stephano, CEO of Global Healthcare Resources and the Medical Tourism Association. Stephano notes that there has been a “sharp uptick in the utilization of cryptocurrency” to pay for medical treatment abroad.
Decentralized currencies like bitcoin return power to the patient and make it easier for patients to pay for their treatment. Bitcoin can help patients avoid issues with currency conversions and international payments. Bitcoin payments to clinics are fast and come with minimal charges compared with traditional transactions.
Providers who accept bitcoin find that the process is easy and can be quickly converted to national currencies. Ken Fryer, a spokesperson for Vinci Hair Clinic in the United Kingdom, admitted that their clinic had to cancel previous treatments for international patients due to issues with fund transfers and banking restrictions.
Fryer says that Bitcoin solved these issues and gave patients the ability to pay quickly in large sums if needed.
Countries Accepting Bitcoin For Medical Tourism
Medical tourism often occurs in less economically developed countries (LEDC). Bitcoin can help these nations close the wealth inequality gap by encouraging a fair, free-flowing exchange of funds in return for legitimate healthcare services.
Despite the recent downturn in cryptocurrency markets, Bitcoin utilization remains high in many countries where medical tourism is popular.
Currently, the top 10 countries for Bitcoin adoption include Brazil, India and Pakistan. Many of these countries are popular destinations for medical tourism.
India is a particularly popular destination for medical tourism in Asia. India has a favorable medical visa policy, which allows family members to stay with patients. India also scores highly in Bitcoin adoption and is ranked first in centralized service value received and retail centralized service value received.
Bitcoin has the potential to improve medical tourism and help everyone get the treatment they need. Bitcoin is particularly important in today’s post-pandemic world, where medical bills are spiraling and the U.S. medical sector holds trillions of dollars of debt.
Bitcoin can be particularly useful when traveling to countries with tricky transfer laws. Treatment can be delayed or even canceled if patients aren’t able to pay on time. Bitcoin can negate this issue, and help everyone get a fair deal.
Before paying for medical treatment in Bitcoin, patients should consult with their primary care provider to ensure that they get the treatment they need when they return home.
This is a guest post by Frankie Wallace. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.