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Information search for medical treatment abroad
Medical tourism is one of the fastest growing health service sectors where consumers as medical tourists use a variety of sources of information such as family, friends, previous personal experience, print and media, general practitioner (GP) and Internet to explore and find information about their decision to travel abroad to countries or destinations such as Thailand, India, Dubai, Mexico, Venezuela or Poland for medical treatment. It is widely acknowledged that there is a vast collection of health and medical tourism related information available on the internet as various countries and hospitals are offering complex state-of-the-art invasive surgeries and non-invasive treatments. However, the information is of variable quality and therefore the search cost, time and information search skills of medical consumers are important in the selection and assessment processes utilised to obtain this information about the medical treatment, physician, hospital, and destination best suited to their health and medical related travel purposes. The way consumers search, choose, evaluate and appraise information regarding their choice of medical tourism destination - country, hospital and doctor - is important, because all these sources of information on health and medical tourism can influence a consumer’s decision to travel, or not to travel overseas for medical treatment to improve their health and well-being. The objective of this empirical paper is to use qualitative methodology to investigate medical tourists as consumers of the medical tourism healthcare product and services by researching their experiences in searching for and appraising various sources of information on the decision to travel overseas for medical treatment. Data will be analysed to support the development of an information search model of medical treatment abroad. The research findings, managerial implications and conclusions will be discussed.