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Why medical tourism is rare in the addiction market

July 31, 2017
by Alison Knopf
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Stephano of the Medical Tourism Association says it’s important for stakeholders in the local area of the destination to offer some support for the treatment program. In fact, many people come to the Untied States for addiction services from the Middle East and Asia, she says, because “culturally, the services aren’t available there or they’re looking for privacy. If you’re a high net-worth individual, the world is your oyster.”

The perception of the destination is a part of that, she says. “Why are so many treatment centers located in Florida? If you’re a cash-paying patient, and you can choose where to go, you’re not going to go to Minnesota in the middle of the winter.”

Experts also note that aftercare is an important aspect of recovery, and local resources are imperative for patients. Destinations abroad are unlikely to offer the same support that nearby facilities can provide. Technology tools will gradually improve the ongoing aftercare connection, but most agree that treatment doesn’t end after a residential stay.

Alison Knopf is a freelance writer based in New York.


Long-term support

One problem that Stephano sees for the addiction treatment industry is the lack of a long-term support system. Patients who travel for plastic surgery do not necessarily need long-term support—it’s an acute procedure. “There are not many recovery centers that have a care continuum,” she says. “We developed a certification program launched in 2009 that was designed around the patient care continuum. This would be very appropriate for the addiction rehabilitation industry because it’s looking at the business practices, and what services are available to the traveling patient before, during, and after treatment.”

Stephano adds that technology can help provide this aftercare.

“If you have cancer, you go to online forums, chat rooms, support groups, all kinds of things,” she says. “A cancer [treatment] provider could actually consolidate all of those things for you and give you one app, with support groups, articles customized for my situation. When people leave rehab, they’re still piecing it together. If people could do this on their own, they wouldn’t need to check themselves into a residential program. If you’re charging someone $100,000 for rehab, I think you could put together an app for them to get what they need.”