Where is the policy? A bibliometric review of the state of policy research on medical tourism

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Department of Social Sciences


The role of medical tourism in bridging health system deficiencies, improving healthcare standards and stimulating local economies has long been recognized, but its use as a welfare and developmental strategy is being increasingly contested. It is imperative that researchers who study medical tourism connect their work with policy, so that its real-world effects can be better understood, and more effectively addressed. This article seeks to gauge the extent of policy thinking in medical tourism research and its overlap with contextual policy concerns. It examines the current state of medical tourism research through a bibliometric review of academic literature on medical tourism, to establish the extent to which researchers apply public policy theories and frameworks in their investigation of medical tourism, or consider the policy imperatives of their work. Further, it compares the content of policy research on medical tour-ism in select source (Canada, United States and United Kingdom) and destination countries (Mexico, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) to contextual policy challenges, to examine the degree of convergence between research and policy needs, and identify gaps. Findings suggest that policy in medical tourism research is relatively limited, and that what policy there is, is fragmented and not entirely in sync with the policy questions and concerns that exist. This is a potential issue, because failure to make the policy connection is a lost opportunity to frame the public debate on medical tourism, and influence policy thinking. This article is a call to action for greater engagement by policy scholars on the subject, more coherence between policy needs and research, as well as effective feedback mechanisms to translate research results to policy prescriptions, and to channel them into policy action.

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