Health at a Glance 2016: Three Takeaways for Medical Tourism

The European Commission and the OECD just released Health at a Glance: Europe 2016, a report detailing the state of health in every EU country. The report says Europe’s health systems need to be more effective, more accessible, and more resilient.

Some notable findings include:

  • Over 1.2 million deaths in EU countries would have been prevented in 2013 through more effective public health and prevention policies or more timely and effective healthcare
  • Higher cancer survival rates since 2000 due to improved treatments for several types of cancer
  • There are now more than two specialist doctors for every generalist across EU countries

The report also highlights some trends that indicate medical travel to and within EU countries will continue to increase.


Here are three important takeaways for the medical tourism industry:

1. Out-of-Pocket Spending is Increasing

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, European governments are not increasing spending on health. By contrast, out-of-pocket spending is still increasing. The graph below shows that the out-of-pocket spending, although increasing, is happening at a slower rate than before the the crash.

Health Spending Growth in the EUThis trend is important in two ways. First, the more people that pay for healthcare out of their own savings, the more likely they are to look for better value treatment alternatives. Secondly, the trend is indicative of the growing marketization of healthcare – patients are increasingly inclined to view their treatment as a service, so they expect certain benefits as part of this service (e.g. shorter waiting times, better customer service).


2. The Average Stay in Hospital is Decreasing

The average patient stay in an EU hospital has been reduced by 20% since the year 2000. This makes it easier for medical travel patients to receive treatment abroad in a couple of ways.

Average stay in European hospitals

First and foremost, it lessens costs. Two nights fewer in hospital means two nights' worth of medical expenses, accommodation, food, and travel that a patient no longer has to pay.

Moreover, receiving treatment is now less disruptive to patients' lives than previously. As hospitals continue to increase their efficiency, the average stay in hospital is likely to continue decreasing, meaning it will only become easier for patients to receive treatment without it being a major life disruption. The medical tourist will be able to plan shorter hospital stays, which will in turn increase the appeal of medical treatment abroad.


3. The EU is moving towards cheaper, faster healthcare

The EU's health policy goals are to reduce financial barriers to healthcare, to improve access to healthcare, and to reduce excessive waiting times (EU citizens' right to cross-border healthcare helps this goal).


These goals show that the EU is following larger trends in the modern healthcare sector to improve both access to care and patient satisfaction. As part of this trend, many modern businesses have been built to improve the patient experience. Nowhere is this more true than in medical tourism, where patients are traveling because of a real medical or financial need, and pressure is on providers to deliver.

Europe's Health Policy Focus

The EU's goals are also objectives that we at MEDIGO are working towards. We're committed to improving access to healthcare for people everywhere. Our over-arching goal is to be the best service for patients to find affordable, timely, and high-quality treatment anywhere in the world.


Data and image source: OECD/EU (2016), Health at a Glance: Europe 2016 – State of Health in the EU Cycle, OECD Publishing, Paris

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