Medical tourism

Every time Dr. Brian Day burps, there are dozens of articles about the woes and perils of ‘private’ health care. But have you ever heard once anyone talking about the potential of private health care as an economic development driver?

Health care is the fastest growing industry in North America. Six of the top 10 fastest growing occupations over the next 20 years are expected to be in the health care sector.

A number of offshore countries are beginning to make medical tourism a targeted economic development sector and companies in the United States including Companion Global Healthcare — via BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina — are offering health insurance covered medical tourism programs.

Countries like Singapore, Thailand, India, Korea and Costa Rica pour money into health care facilities in preparation for medical tourism to take flight.

One expert cited in this article believes medical tourism will go mainstream because, while the United States has advanced health care, it is debatable whether or not it has the best service and the best access to care for most people.

Instead of whining and complaining, wouldn’t it be neat if New Brunswick could become a nearshore medical tourism option for U.S. citizens? We could build a world class health care system for a market of 300 million people. We could invest some of the ‘profits’ from that system to ensure that the public system in New Brunswick is very good.

Now, most of you are laughing at this right now. But I urge you to think this through. Why would this be so hard? The industry is high wage, highly skilled. We do have the ability to attract some health care workers from the U.K. and Quebec because wages are lower there compared to here. In addition, the buzz we could build from being a medical tourism destination could lead to attracting other health care sectors including remote diagnosis (reviewing xrays from afar), telecare, research, etc.

Or we could continue to ignore the fastest growing industry in North America because we are all tied up in knots about the word ‘private’.