Hospitals in the USA have reported seeing between 40% and 70% fewer patients since the onset of COVID-19. Most patients were scheduled for profit-generating services like radiological scans and that, combined with the downturn in domestic and international inbound medical tourism, has contributed to a tough financial situation. According to the American Hospitals Association, hospitals are losing US $50 billion a month.
For decades, many Americans have travelled abroad for medical care, although domestic medical tourism has also been on the rise. US employers in areas lacking access to top health-care professionals have been paying for their workers to seek help in others states further away from home. But the coronavirus pandemic has hit both domestic and international medical tourism hard.
Dr David Vequist from the Center for Medical Tourism Research, located in the H-E-B School of Business & Administration at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, says that Covid-19 has crippled many hospitals’ finances by taking away domestic medical tourism, which is one of their largest sources of income. He states; “America’s flawed healthcare system has forced hospitals to provide lucrative elective services to the privately insured to generate revenue. Hospitals need to provide these elective surgeries because that is the best way for them to turn a profit. Patients could receive similar care closer to home, but most choose to travel for the elective surgeries that must be performed by specialists.”
While widespread distribution of a vaccine in the USA could still be months away, the news provides hope for the medical tourism market and the wider healthcare field.