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Open Med. 2011;5(3):e139-48. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

What do we know about Canadian involvement in medical tourism?: a scoping review.

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Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada .



Medical tourism, the intentional pursuit of elective medical treatments in foreign countries, is a rapidly growing global industry. Canadians are among those crossing international borders to seek out privately purchased medical care. Given Canada's universally accessible, single-payer domestic health care system, important implications emerge from Canadians' private engagement in medical tourism.


A scoping review was conducted of the popular, academic, and business literature to synthesize what is currently known about Canadian involvement in medical tourism. Of the 348 sources that were reviewed either partly or in full, 113 were ultimately included in the review.


The review demonstrates that there is an extreme paucity of academic, empirical literature examining medical tourism in general or the Canadian context more specifically. Canadians are engaged with the medical tourism industry not just as patients but also as investors and business people. There have been a limited number of instances of Canadians having their medical tourism expenses reimbursed by the public medicare system. Wait times are by far the most heavily cited driver of Canadians' involvement in medical tourism. However, despite its treatment as fact, there is no empirical research to support or contradict this point.


Although medical tourism is often discussed in the Canadian context, a paucity of data on this practice complicates our understanding of its scope and impact.

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