Gone are the days when consumers looked to the Occident for high quality health care as a world-class health care system is becoming readily available internationally. The worldly consumer may be what’s keeping international health care exchange traded funds (ETFs) healthy.

The good quality and affordable price of health care provided internationally has spawned a group that engages in “medical tourism,” writes Maggie Ozan-Rafferty for Gallup Management Journal. For example, an estimated 750,000 Americans went overseas for medical treatment in 2007, and according to Gallup, 29% of Americans would consider traveling for a variety of medical procedures. [What health care reform would mean.]

According a study by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, 1.6 million Americans will travel overseas for medical treatment by 2012. The study also showed that in 2008, Americans spent $2.1 billion for overseas health care, which translated to an unrealized gain of $15.9 billion for U.S. health care providers. [ETFs to play Obama’s new policies.]

Medical tourism has spawned businesses that get, qualify and publish data on the best international hospitals. A set of specialized travel agencies even help patients do all the work of setting up hospitals, travel and after-care treatment. U.S. insurance companies are also considering covering medical tourism, and some have already jumped at the chance.

Engagement, or the psychological attachment customers have for a health care provider, is what will determine the future in the global health care market, according to Gallup. But in the end, it may all come down to cost-effective treatment options – the average patient won’t spend a fortune on a procedure that would cost less somewhere else and yield the same results.

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