We live in a world of technology, with computers that are conceivably smarter than the average human, and capable of far more tasks than we ever could have imagined even 20 years ago. We rely heavily on machines with micro-chips and micro-processors and the future is before us now, laid out like a neat game of dominos, within our grasp. As long as we continue to produce ‘intellectual’ machinery and programs, we have a good chance of outsmarting diseases and affecting not only the present, but the future of global healthcare. Technology not only produces advancements in healthcare, it provides opportunities for better health, faster treatments and longer lives. Another segment of healthcare vital to improving health and prolonging lives is life sciences, which includes pharmaceuticals, research and development and biotechnology. This includes the controversial stem cell treatments only offered in certain countries and specific healthcare facilities. Both ehealth and life sciences are paving the way for an emerging sector of global healthcare perched to dominate the healthcare industry. The 3rd Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress will tackle both of these issues in various general sessions, bringing them to the forefront of the industry.
With these advancements in R&D leading to new and improved cancer and disease treatments, we are also seeing a rise in healthcare practices that are supported and controlled by electronic processes, which is being coined ehealth. However, this definition can be expanded to include the notion of connected, global thinking, which can improve healthcare across the globe through the use of information and communication technology. The swiftness and ease of transmission of important health documents through these technologies is changing the landscape of healthcare. How fascinating to think that one day, healthcare will be a global force and we might all be united under a global healthcare system. Keep in mind that ehealth not only pertains to doctors and other healthcare professionals, but also to patients. Patients are now able to access information at their fingertips and this has opened up a whole new world in global healthcare. Patients are able to have Q&A sessions with doctors in countries halfway around the world to seek medical advice. Medical advice forums have become commonplace. Patients are taking control of their own health and are educating themselves on how best to treat conditions, prevent disease and maintain overall good health. Global communication inspires trust among patients and global healthcare providers. This is extremely significant for medical tourism, because with open lines of communication, people are more likely to consider traveling outside one’s national borders for healthcare.
Patients are being empowered and have finally been given voices; they are choosing to be more involved and want the chance to explain what they feel is the best course of action for them, and why. With the Internet, people can research on a specific disease or condition and present their case to their doctor, backed up with facts and research, not simply emotions. This also lends patients more credibility and respect from medical professionals. It has also paved the way for Evidence-Based Medicine, a branch of medicine dealing with clinical evidence. A doctor’s expert opinion holds less weight than it used to and patient’s now seek evidential proof. Doctors and patients are now able to work together to determine the best course of action to take. This is not only novel, it is amazing.
Life sciences is a very broad umbrella topic that encompasses many different aspects of life and living organisms. How is this relevant for medical tourism? Without forward momentum and new developments, medical tourism could become obstinate. People might just opt to get treated at home. But this will never happen with continuing advancements and new treatments on the horizon every time we blink and here’s why: with ehealth and patient involvement, not many people will choose to wait for a new treatment to come to them. They’re going to follow the treatment and usually that means traveling abroad. While one country may not yet offer the treatment, another one has been performing it with a high success rate for months. When it comes to one’s health, people will go to great lengths to preserve it, especially when they know the solution is as simple as locating the right doctor willing to perform the procedure. Stem cell treatment is a prime example of this. Although the topic of much debate currently, this innovative treatment has helped many people. There are also controversial cancer treatments being offered abroad, such as holistic treatments, which are not available in the US. Many US patients, including Farah Fawcett, have traveled for cancer care. For those nearing the end of their rope, the risk of receiving controversial treatment is still smaller than that of waiting, or doing nothing.
Of course, as mentioned above, there are ethical issues abound and those must be addressed, but the future looks bright and promising.