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First medical tourism awards tout top treatment trips

By Barry Neild, for CNN
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
The medical tourism industry is estimated to be worth up to $55 billion per year
The medical tourism industry is estimated to be worth up to $55 billion per year
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Worldwide medical tourism industry said to be growing by up to 25% each year
  • The International Medical Travel Journal has staged its first annual award ceremony recognizing best treatment centers
  • Malaysian facilities scooped three awards, winning in hospital, dental and fertility clinic categories

(CNN) -- When they can see the world, save cash and get that surgery you wanted, it's no wonder that increasing numbers of travelers are hopping on a jet in search of cut-price healthcare.

The worldwide medical tourism industry is said to be growing by up to 25% each year as patients with passports head abroad for procedures costing as much as 80% less than at home.

Partly fueled by 1.2 million Americans, it's a sector now estimated to be worth up to $55 billion.

But where are the best destinations for medical tourism?

MORE: Welcome to the plastic surgery capital of the world

Last month, the UK-based International Medical Travel Journal staged its first annual award ceremony recognizing what it says are the top facilities offering treatment to visitors.

While many of these establishments offer care for potentially life-threatening cancer or heart problems, patients are just as likely to be seeking cosmetic work to their face, teeth or torso.

IMTJ's managing editor Keith Pollard says the awards, staged in Dubai, are the industry's first independent stamps of approval on medical tourism providers.

MORE: Thailand offers tourists chance to win a new face

Airline travel discounts part of package

"All our winners exemplify the way the medical tourism industry should be run -- professional, offering exceptional patient care and providing the best possible medical outcomes," Pollard says.

The IMTJ divided its winners into categories, including best hospital, specialist patient center, dental clinic, fertility clinic, travel agency and website.

Malaysia emerged as one of the prime destinations, with victories in three categories.

MORE: Bali wants in on the medical tourism action

Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, a 330-bed care center that offers airline travel discounts to inbound patients on its website, took the hospital accolade.

Kuala Lumpur's Prince Court Medical Center won best fertility clinic, while its International Dental Specialist Center was named as the best place for teeth tuneups.

Jordan was named as the best overall destination for what judges said was a remarkable success in handling 250,000 international patients.

Click here for a full list of the 2014 Medical Travel Awards winners.

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