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The Human Side of Medical Tourism

The Human Side of Medical Tourism

The Human Side of Medical Tourism

Greater Gainesville is quickly becoming one of the top destinations for medical tourism and specialized medicine in the United States. With a host of new facilities and experienced doctors, this city is becoming a prime destination for those seeking specialized medical care.

The burgeoning medical tourism industry in Greater Gainesville is driven by its proximity to the University of Florida Health Science Center, which is home to many top-notch medical specialists. HSC is the leader of many world-renowned research centers and a leader in the field of medical research. As such, many of the doctors in the city are highly trained and experienced in treating medical conditions from around the world.

Greater Gainesville’s affordability allows patients to receive medical care without breaking the bank with its low-cost healthcare providers. Additionally, many medical facilities in Gainesville offer discounts and special rates for those traveling for medical treatments.


What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is becoming a popular way for individuals to get the medical care they need at a lower cost. This type of tourism involves traveling to another city, state or country for medical treatment, usually due to the lower costs and ease of receiving higher-quality medical care than what is available at home.

The cost of medical care can vary significantly from city to city, state to state and country to country. Traveler’s expenses, such as exchange rates, lodging, dining, transportation and the length of stay required, will determine the total costs when considering the facility of choice.


Did You Know?


  • According to UF Health, the top areas for patients coming for treatment from outside the primary service area are neurosurgery, and heart and lung surgery.
  • In 2022, 70% of patients came from outside the 14-county immediate service area for neurological movement disorders or a secondary diagnosis
    • The most common secondary diagnoses were:
      • Parkinson’s
      • Parkinsonism
      • Dystonia
      • Supranuclear Palsy
      • Tics and Tourette Syndrome
      • Myoclonus
      • Chorea
    • Many of these are deep brain stimulation patients
  • 78% of heart and lung transplants in 2022 came from outside the primary service area
UF Health Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases

Meet Dr. Wong — One of the Doctors for These Traveling Patients

Dr. Wong is an Assistant Professor at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health. He treats patients with movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, dystonia and others. He also has a clinical focus on deep brain stimulation (DBS) and artificial intelligence.

According to Wong, the past 20 years have shown significant advancements in DBS for patients with movement disorders. Many providers throughout the country and the world are performing complicated biomedical surgeries. However, there are so many moving parts regarding device implantations. The population of DBS failure post-surgery is growing, causing providers and patients to seek answers.

They have refined the approach towards DBS troubleshooting over the years and realized that an important component of this challenge was community awareness.

“Our group embraced a dedicated effort to sharing our knowledge as much as possible with the medical community through scientific articles and textbooks,” said Wong. “This cultivated a wonderful communication network with other DBS providers where we can all learn from one another and also further energized incoming referrals to UF for DBS troubleshooting.”

The University of Florida Intelligent Critical Care Center is a great example of how AI integration can synergize with the clinical workflow. Led by Director Dr. Azra Bihorac, the UF IC3 developed an AI model to help interpret the massive amounts of medical data that comes in for any given patient in the intensive care unit. The AI model can help predict which patients may have an increased risk of medical complications and, thus, may need more frequent monitoring.

Meet Jared Brown –– DBS Patient at Fixel Institute, and Medical Tourist

On the patient side of medical tourism, sometimes it comes down to researching who in the field can help with their prognosis. Patients find UF Health within social media support groups on Facebook and other social media platforms.

However, for one patient, his attending hospital recommended they travel from Pennsylvania to Florida to get the best care.

Jared Brown’s parents faced one such dilemma since Jared suffers from a rare genetic condition called CTNNB1 Syndrome that affects approximately 300 people worldwide. The condition is either a deletion, partial deletion or mutation of the CTNNB1 gene and affects the communication between cells. Doctors at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia recommended they seek help at the Fixel Institute to replace a DBS implantation device.

According to Jared’s mother, Jana Brown, “Dr. Joshua Wong and Dr. Justin Hilliard, his neurologist and neurosurgeon, are such a phenomenal team. Although we were supposed to be there for only five days after surgery, Jared developed complications, and we ended up staying five weeks. His doctors allowed us to be a part of the team and wanted our input. This doesn’t happen at other hospitals we’ve experienced. When Jared traveled back home, he developed toxic encephalopathy. The team at Fixel directed the doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest on how to best treat Jared.”

Patients and their families are also impacted by the community they stay in. For the Browns, it was more than just the hospital.

“When we first arrived at Fixel, the police department heard about Jared, and they came to visit him. Through that visit, we met many wonderful people we now call friends. We also stay at the Fairfield Inn and Suites; they have become like family, making it easier to be so far away from home. We even received a Christmas card from the staff there. We also realized it is much less expensive here than if we were in the same predicament at home.”


Our Health Care Systems Sought from People Around the World 

These three hospital systems are regarded as the driving force behind Greater Gainesville’s medical destination status:

  • UF Health Shands
  • Shands Hospital
  • Children’s Hospital
  • Cancer Hospital
  • Psychiatric Hospital
  • Rehab Hospital
  • HCA Florida North Florida Hospital
  • Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center



Thiago Beduschi, M.D., chief of transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery, is photographed in the operating room at UF Health Shands Hospital.

UF Health is a leading healthcare system in Greater Gainesville and the nation. Its high-quality care is comprehensive, from primary health care needs to the most complex medical conditions.


Specialties within domains that have garnered worldwide recognition, like Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure, continue to encourage medical tourism in Greater Gainesville. Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson’s disease and tremors. UF is prominently working on research and has programs to support children and families.


Centers of Emphasis at UF Health Shands Hospital:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases
  • Cancer
  • UF Health Cancer Center of Excellence
  • Women’s and Children’s Services
  • More than 20 pediatric specialties at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital
  • Heart care
  • UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital
  • Orthopaedics
  • Transplants
  • UF Health Shands Transplant Center


See Also

Other specialties:

  • Diabetes
  • Diabetes Institute
  • Sleep
  • UF Health Sleep Center
  • Aging and geriatric research
  • Anesthesiology
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Otolaryngology
  • Pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiology
  • Surgery
  • Urology


Proudly Prestigious

UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital

  • 1 children’s hospital in Florida
  • One of the top eight Children’s Hospitals in the Southeast
  • Offers eight specialties, five of which ranked in the top 50 in the nation
  • 13 in Pediatric Diabetes & Endocrinology
  • 18 in Pediatric Pulmonology & Lung Surgery
  • 26 in Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Surgery
  • 34 in Pediatric Neurology & Neurosurgery
  • 49 in Pediatric Cancer
  • Liver transplant program is the best in the nation in terms of outcomes
  • Lung transplant program is one of the top six in the country
  • Leader in developing COVID-related lung transplant protocols
  • Second hospital in the country to begin doing COVID lung transplants and has completed the most of any hospital
  • Neurosurgery and Neurology programs are two of the most successful programs in the country in terms of National Institutes of Health funding, clinical research and unique treatment programs
  • This includes motion disorders (leveraging deep brain stimulation and other treatment modalities for Parkinson’s and similar diseases), brain tumors, stroke and more
  • Pediatric heart transplant program is ranked seventh in the nation
  • The pediatric heart transplant program is part of a comprehensive adult and pediatric heart program that includes everything from heart transplants to congenital heart disease to aortic surgical interventions
  • One of the highest accredited and comprehensive trauma programs in Florida, including five trauma transport aircraft

According to U.S. News & World Report 2022 and information provided by UF Health


(Fact box)

HCA Florida North Florida Hospital

HCA Florida North Florida Hospital is part of the HCA Florida Healthcare system, the largest network of doctors, nurses and care sites in Florida.


  • Cardiology
  • Company care
  • Emergency care
  • Gastroenterology
  • Imaging services
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Neurological care
  • NICU
  • Oncology
  • Orthopedic care
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary care
  • Senior health
  • Sleep disorders
  • Spine care
  • Surgery
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Women’s care
  • Wound care


(Fact box)

Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System includes two medical centers, the Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville and the Lake City VA Medical Center in Lake City.



  • Traumatic brain injury treatment
  • Spinal cord injury treatment
  • Stroke rehabilitation
  • Radiation/oncology
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Surgery
  • Surgical inpatient care, cardiothoracic, neurological, musculoskeletal and moreital

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