Growing medical tourism industry drawing San Antonians

Price shopping for medical procedures paying off for savvy locals

SAN ANTONIO - According to the 5-year-old Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word, medical tourism is hugely growing industry, falling behind only smartphone apps in growth and pegging an estimated $100 billion in economic impact worldwide.

Sam Burnham did the research, made arrangements with a California company called Planet Hospital, and bought a knee surgery in India. 

He spent two weeks in the hospital, and although he suffered a few normal complications, he says the saving outweighed any misgivings he may have had.

“I needed to get it done. I could have gone to Costa Rica for about $12,000, I could have gone to Mexico for $12,000,” he explains. 

Instead Sam chose India because he liked the doctor and the hospital best. 

In doing so, he saved an estimated $38,000 in surgery and aftercare costs. His only regret is the adjustment to customs, language and food which took a little getting used to.

“I lost about 25 pounds while I was there,” he said.

The Center for Medical Tourism Research at UIW tracks people like Sam and explains this have become the norm for people across the world. 

For example, Turkey is a popular destination now for anyone needing dental work. 

“Europeans will actually go there for dental, and then go on vacation and sit on a beautiful beach,” said David Venquist, the founder and director of CMTR.

He says India has developed a reputation as the Walmart of medical tourism, with most of its doctors being trained abroad in the U.S. or Europe and an exchange rate that can’t be beat. 

“People all around the world know they can go to India and get fairly safe cosmetic, orthopedic, cardiology procedures and get relatively low prices,” said Venquist.

In this case, it pays to use the internet as well as social networking to find out more about which countries offer the best deals and expertise on any particular medical procedure. 

And Venquist also suggests those desperately looking for new drug treatments also reach out beyond the neighborhood, noting that many countries are far more lenient with liability and bureaucracy than the U.S.F.D.A.

For more resources on medical tourism, log onto the CMTR website, at


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