Medical Tourism Growing at IU Health

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The director of the international patient services program at Indiana University Health says the system's burgeoning medical tourism efforts provide an economic boost to the industry and the Indiana economy. Lance Barnes says the International Patient Services program, which started three years ago, served patients last year from 16 countries. In an interview in the Business of Health, he said the industry is very competitive and "it's a big commitment to come half way around the world to receive treatment and we want to do everything to make the patients feel welcome and get the care they need."

Barnes says most of the program's patients come from the Middle East, but program leaders are appealing to decision-makers in other countries such as China, where Barnes recently returned from a promotional visit to the Asian nation. He says the program's selling points include ease-of-access and a high level of service delivered by a 10-member staff dedicated to these out-of-country patients.

Barnes says the type of care received by patients ranges from treatments for multiple types of cancer to pediatric, cardiovascular or neurosurgical procedures.

IU Health markets the program to governments that sponsor the patients' care, international hospitals through collaborations and even individual medical care facilitation providers. The program also deals with training doctors over the course of 30-90 days. He says hospitals, particularly in China, have shown a "keen" interest in such training as they look to "raise their medical infrastructure in their home country."

The industry is estimated to total $55 billion per year in the U.S. and Barnes says that number is rising at a 15-25 percent clip.

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