Patients beyond borders – the challenge of medical tourism to Swedish healthcare

Project manager

Borg, Erik - Professor


The Knowledge Foundation

Project type


The project unites medical cross-border researchers and Swedish practitioners to coproduce knowledge applicable by the six participating companies whilst also contributing to theory development within the field of medical tourism. Together we will build up a research and business-based competence cluster strengthening Swedish competiveness in this industry. To that end and in addition to the co-producing companies we have established research cooperation with Karolinska University Hospital providing medical expertise to our cluster.

International medical tourism means planned medical treatment abroad for the benefit of patients. It shows a rapid global growth. Incoming patients provide precious possibilities for export sales, new jobs and cutting edge competence. Around 40 countries such as the US, Thailand, South Korea, Germany and Turkey put much effort into developing this industry.

Sweden has an ambivalent approach on medical tourism. Care-companies mediate high quality specialized treatment, but all incoming medical tourism only amounts to one per mill of the Swedish medical care turnover. New dedicated and dynamic companies like some of our partners are still small and are only just beginning to develop their innovative activities.

Sweden has many good ingredients – such as high quality medical care and a well-developed export industry along with a strong tourism sector - for successful medical tourism but we lack the recipe. We strive to co-create it.

Our common research question is:

Which competitive advantages do Swedish healthcare and related service producers have in the global medical tourism market and how can we, building on these advantages, co-create applicable solutions making Sweden an attractive place for international patients?

The overall aim of the project is to obtain a deeper knowledge of networks, communication and internationalization processes in the medical tourism industry and to map out the competitive advantages of Swedish health care, and based on these insights and advantages, co-create new knowledge and applicable solutions attracting international patients.

We rely on intercultural business communication, internationalization, network and competitive advantage theories. Apart from Sweden we will also on site study medical tourism in a few countries in Europe, Asia and North America analyzing what we and Swedish health care industry can learn from them. We use a qualitative case study approach with semi-structured interviews and observations in the studied countries. The field studies and empirical findings are crucial. We also make comparative studies. The participating companies will – through daily practice, business contacts, data bases and other sources – gather and analyze research relevant information, discussing and developing it at workshops, seminars and other meetings with the researchers co-producing new knowledge and industry relevant applicable solutions enabling excellent medical care and service.

Frank Michael Kirsch, Researcher - School of Social Sciences

Kjell Ljungbo, Senior Lecturer, PhD - School of Social Sciences

Research area / geographic area

Social Sciences Business Studies Sweden

Project time

2016 — 2019


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