Throughout the world very few destinations that offer medical tourism have developed and codified a medical tourism regulatory framework law

To develop and codify a medical tourism regulatory framework strategy requires that one first define the term medical tourism as it will be referred to by all stakeholders under its jurisdiction. Without medical tourism regulatory framework law as a first step, there can be no regulatory standards setting or enforcement, no official statistical reporting format, no way to measure growth of the sector, and no way to provide for or ensure brand reputation and integrity of the medical tourism destination and its product.

Medical tourism regulatory framework strategy seeks to define at a public policy level, and regulates such things as the minimum standards to offer medical tourism services in a destination, and sets allowed diagnostic, therapeutic, and treatment practices and principles for facilities classification, professional credentialing and privileging, and product marketing and advertising standards. The medical tourism framework regulations exist to regulate the sector in order to combat brain drain on the public health sector and its doctors and nurses, measure growth and publish statistics, and to provide an underpinning to try to protect both the producer and the consumer from unfair trade practices, deceptive advertising, destination brand standards and consumer expectations.

headshot-Maria K Todd, MHA PhD

Maria K Todd, MHA PhD
Author: the Handbook of Medical Tourism Program Development

Of the few medical tourism regulatory framework laws that exist, most are missing key definitions of terms, and were not designed to be enforced or regulated. They exist on paper and have no budget to hire staff to activate the regulation and make it enforceable. As a result, providers and other stakeholders simply ignore them and do whatever they want with impunity. Once the brand image is set as a place where anything goes, consumers are less likely to trust the brand and will look for flaws and failures at which to point as they seek another destination that is perceived to be “better” equipped to meet their needs.

Maria K Todd, MHA PhD

“Medical Tourism Master Plan Development”

4th Mexico Medical Tourism Congress (2013)

When a proper medical tourism destination strategy is formulated, it includes a set of special characteristics that the geography, gastronomy, culture, language, natural, and developed health care assets of a certain place that support local doctors, hospitals and clinics, used to produce health tourism products.

This “sense of place,” which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the regulation of the product. This is a prominent feature in medical tourism products that incorporate hydrotherapies such as thermal springs and mineral waters (balneology), sea water (thalassotherapy), mud therapies, vinotherapy, infusion therapies, salt therapies, special massage techniques (e.g., Thai massage), plant-based therapies, Ayurveda and other indigenous treatments, and respiratory therapies, among others.

At its core is the assumption that the region where the treatment is delivered or elements of the treatment regime are sourced impart a unique quality that is specific to that medical tourism product or destination.