Many in Asia Travel Domestically for Medical Care

by Christopher Khoury

Households seek care inside and outside their home countries

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Underscoring issues with access to quality local healthcare, a median of about one in five households across 11 Asian countries say at least one member had to travel to another community for medical care in the past year. Nepalese households are the most likely to have had a member seek treatment outside the community, while those in Indonesia are the least likely.


While Gallup has previously studied Americans' willingness to travel abroad for medical treatment, these findings represent Gallup's first measure of medical travel among households in Asia. Medical travel and tourism is a nascent global industry that has benefited some of the best Asian healthcare providers. It is characterized by consumers traveling within their country, or to other countries, in search of medical care.

In several countries, rural households tend to be more likely than urban households to report travel outside their city or community for medical care. While these disparities are clearly evident in South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and India, they are virtually nonexistent in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. As countries invest in healthcare infrastructure development, geography and remote or rural populations remain a challenge for meeting the healthcare needs of the population.


Asians are far less likely to report traveling to another country for medical care than they are to travel within their own country. Afghan households are most likely to report having someone leave the country for medical care in the last year -- most often to Pakistan and Iran. War and occupation, a large refugee population among national porous borders, and lack of cohesive development of a healthcare infrastructure are possible factors that could make Afghans more likely to seek treatment elsewhere than their regional neighbors.


Bottom Line

When a medical necessity arises, Gallup data show many Asians -- particularly those in rural households -- are leaving their communities for treatment elsewhere. Fewer are traveling to other countries for care. While the quality and availability of national and local healthcare services undoubtedly play a role in these results, the findings point to a willingness among Asian households to seek solutions to their healthcare needs wherever they can find them.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 17,141 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between April and June 2010 in Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, Malaysia, India, Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The question on within country medical travel was not asked in Singapore.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error ranged from a low of ±1.6 percentage points in India to a high of ±4.1 percentage points in Afghanistan.

The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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