Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Change in UK regulations may reduce infertility tourism

One factor that can affect any aspect of medical travel and medical tourism is that the market sector can be a victim of its own success. Constantine Constantinides has highlighted this previously in his IMTJ article “Medical Tourism and the West's Revenge”, arguing that in effect the success of medical travel is self limiting.

How can this success be self limiting?

Where overseas treatment becomes an attractive option for patients, domestic providers and governments may react to this trend by becoming more competitive (e.g. by reducing prices for local treatment) or by removing the causes and drivers for medical travel (e.g. by changing local regualtion of a treatment). Thus, the more patients travel abroad for treatment, the greater will be the reaction within the domestic market and a “balance of trade” will be reached.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is this week’s announcement by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that it intends to conduct a consultation over changes to the rules governing egg and sperm donation in the UK. There has been a significant shortage of egg and sperm donors in the UK due to the restrictions on the payments that can be made to donors. The £250 maximum "compensation" payment for both men and women donors has meant that demand for donor eggs and sperm has far exceeded supply. Waiting lists can be as long as two to three years for those patients eligible for NHS treatment.

The removal of donor anonymity has also been a contributing factor to the reluctance of donors to come forward. According to the most recent HFEA statistics (2008), only 1,184 women donated eggs and there were only 396 new sperm donors in 2008. Around 2,000 babies a year are born in the UK using donated eggs, sperm or embryos. As a result, we have seen an increasing number of UK couples seeking infertility treatment abroad; it has been one of the fastest growing areas of medical tourism. (For the background see “New research paper provides insight into infertility tourism”). The response from the HFEA to the increasing number of infertile couples going abroad is therefore to consider how to reduce this ...... by increasing the payments and incentives to egg and sperm donors, AND thus increasing the supply of eggs and sperm. Payments may increase to £1,000 plus.

It’s unlikely that the changes will have any immediate effect on the market sector. No decisions will be made until the end of the HFEA public consultation next year. The three-month public consultation will not start until January 2011 and the HFEA is expected to be subsumed into the UK’s Care Quality Commission as a result of the UK public expenditure cuts. But there’s a clear warning here for those involved in medical tourism businesses and the medical travel sector. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket..... Or more seriously, be aware that any segment of the medical tourism market may be limited by its own success when domestic providers and governments seek to reverse the trend.


Naveen Rao, MHS said...

People in the states have talked about the ability of medical travel to drive down costs, but so far it's been mostly hypothetical. This could be interesting if it gains traction.

Who said overseas medical travel was a bad thing for domestic healthcare?

Naveen Rao, MHS
naveen101@gmail.com (no spam please)

Anonymous said...

Bloggers invited to compete for prizes in Thailand’s Medical Tourism Blog Contest

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Medical Tourism Blog Contest kicks off with cash and prizes worth nearly US$20,000 up for grabs, including a seven-day all-inclusive medical tour of Thailand for 12 finalists.
The competition is easy and fun, with the aim to promote medical tourism in the Kingdom by awarding winning contestants trips to the Land of Smiles and other prizes.
Twelve finalists chosen from the entries will win an experience of a lifetime: an all-inclusive seven-day Medical Tourism Familiarization Trip in Thailand, which will take place from November 20-26, 2010. Some of them will travel to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Ko Samui, while others will explore Bangkok. The TAT will arrange additional sightseeing tours for finalists so they can experience the attractions of Thailand as a medical tourism hub.
During the competition period from November 20, 2010 to January 31, 2011, each finalist will use blog posts, photos, videos and other social media tools to share their daily experiences with the medical services available in Thailand with a global audience. The goal is to inform readers about what is available and to persuade them to learn more about Thailand’s top medical tourism destinations.
In order to win, finalists must write the best blog post and attract the highest number of unique visitors. The blogger who attracts the most unique visitors to their URL will win the top prize of $13,000 ($10,000 in cash plus luxurious hotel vouchers worth $3,000 at Sri Panwa, Phuket and Westin Grande, Bangkok), and the finalist who the judging committee decides has created the best blog will receive prizes worth $5,000 ($3,000 in cash plus luxurious hotel vouchers worth $2,000 at Ratilanna Riverside Spa Resort, Chiang Mai and Absolute Chandara Resort and Spa, Phuket).
The competition is open to anyone who has experience writing blogs related to tourism or medical tourism. To enter, visit: www.MedBlogContest.com
This is a great opportunity to discover firsthand why Thailand has become one of the world’s top destinations for medical tourism.
Submissions are welcome until October 31, 2010. Check out www.MedBlogContest.com
For media enquiries, please go to the *Contact Us* page and select the subject Press Media Enquiry. A team member will contact you shortly after your submission is received.**

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