Medical tourism refers to people traveling abroad to obtain medical treatment. In the past, this usually referred to those who traveled from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for treatment unavailable at home. However, in recent years it may equally refer to those from developed countries who travel to developing countries for lower-priced medical treatments. The motivation may be also for medical services unavailable or non-licensed in the home country: There are differences between the medical agencies (FDA, EMA etc.) world-wide which decide whether a drug is approved in their country or not. Even within Europe, although therapy protocols might be approved by the European Medical Agency (EMA), several countries have their own review organizations in order to evaluate whether the same therapy protocol would be "cost-effective", so that patients face differences in the therapy protocols, particularly in the access of these drugs, which might be partially explained by the financial strength of the particular Health System.
Medical tourism most often is for surgeries (cosmetic or otherwise) or similar treatments, though people also travel for dental tourism or fertility tourism. People with rare conditions may travel to countries where the treatment is better understood. However, almost all types of health care are available, including psychiatry, alternative medicine, convalescent care, and even burial services.
Health tourism is a wider term for travel that focuses on medical treatments and the use of healthcare services. It covers a wide field of health-oriented tourism ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment to rehabilitational and curative forms of travel. Wellness tourism is a related field.