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Insights on medical tourism: markets as networks and the role of strong ties

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Publication details

JournalKorean Journal of Social Science
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 May 2014
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2014
Issue number1
Volume41
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)19-37
Early online date23/05/14
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Despite a huge amount of speculation and expectation surrounding medical tourism hard empirical evidence is only now beginning to emerge. This paper widens the focus of discussion by contrasting two country experiences (UK and Korea) which on the surface illustrate the diversity of medical tourism and little else. However, considered more comparatively the accounts contribute towards wider, albeit tentative, theoretical understandings and insights. The paper is drawn from two broad programmes of empirical study conducted over three years in UK and Korea respectively. The article is structured in three parts: first, a brief overview of policy, legislative and accreditation frameworks that exist to govern medical tourist flows. Second, we present evidence around flows, demographics, treatment and medical tourism for Korea and UK (both for supply and demand). Third, we examine conceptual and theoretical implications of this evidence. We argue that: viewing medical tourism as a global market is problematic; some medical tourist markets are best viewed as networks with long term exchange relationships; some specific areas of activity do function more strongly as price-related; decision making around medical tourism frequently involves a range of information and social networks (economic action as embedded social structure); and medical tourism is a function of globalisation.

    Research areas

  • Medical tourism; medical travel; globalisation; UK; Korea; comparative analysis; networks

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