European countries, like the rest of the Western World, are faced with some major health problems: an ageing population, the decreasing working hours of health personnel, the increasing workforce population in comparison with the retired population, chronic disorders, the rapidly increasing health costs, and long waiting periods that delay and complicate the treatment process.
Various European countries have altered their health policies due to existing economic problems, excluding health services such as dental treatments, aesthetic operations, eye surgery with excimer laser, and green light prostate surgery from insurance coverage. For these reasons, Europeans have started to seek their treatments in countries where the health service fees are relatively lower. In particular, Central European countries benefit from the services provided by Eastern European countries.
However, Turkey has become an alternative among those countries, especially with the currently decreasing costs of airfare. Some European countries welcome rich tourists to their countries and provide treatments at higher charges while sending their own insured patients to safe countries where the health service costs are lower. In reality, however, their waiting periods are much longer.
There is a great potential for health tourism in Turkey, with around 20 million tourists visiting Turkey each year, 4.5 million Turkish people living abroad, and thousands of foreigners residing in Turkey. Furthermore, Turkish people living abroad have communication problems with foreign doctors and health personnel. Failure or difficulties in expressing themselves and their health problems to the doctors abroad are the most important reasons why they prefer to return to Turkey for the health services.
Another reason why they prefer Turkey’s health services is that the quality and scope of health services in Turkey are equal to those found abroad. First- and second-generation Turkish people living abroad keep close ties with their motherland, and they are not able to establish integration with the foreign society they are living in. These factors exert a great impact on their increasing feelings of homesickness, along with the increase in their ages and the diseases that afflict them.
For these reasons, they frequently return to visit Turkey and stay on for months. It has become obligatory for European insurance companies to cooperate with the hospitals in Turkey especially for cases of HT, diabetes, chronic kidney failure and for follow-up procedures for other chronic diseases.
In other words, it is inevitable that the hospitals in Turkey will provide not only emergency health services to these people, but also other routine and elective health services. Otherwise, insurance companies may think that they would be encountering greater health expenses.
Aside from this, our consanguine living in the Balkans, the Middle Eastern countries and in the lands covered by the former Ottoman Empire also wish to benefit from Turkish medicine as long as their financial status will permit them. After the attacks of 9/11, people from the Middle Eastern and African countries with high financial abilities are no longer able to travel to the Western countries where they used to visit, due to stringent visa and security regulations.
They are actively searching for alternative places where they can receive treatment. For instance, the total amount spent by African patients for treatment abroad is around 17 billion US dollars. Nigerians alone spent one billion US dollars for treatments abroad.
Turkey receives patients mainly from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo and Syria. Turkey is preferred mostly for eye, dental, prostate and fertility operations. When we evaluate the state of our medical tourism in terms of contributions from Turkish citizens living in Europe, the variety of the services provided have been very high, as shown by annual economic earnings that have yielded more than 100 million euros thus far.