The trend of Dutch patients seeking medical care in Belgium has been prevalent for quite some time, particularly in the areas of orthopedic treatments for hips and knees. Additionally, Belgium has become a preferred choice for heart surgeries, caesarean sections, and hysterectomies. This cross-border medical journey is not a recent phenomenon; Dutch citizens have been opting for medical treatments in Belgium since the 1970s. One significant driving factor is the prolonged waiting time in the Netherlands for procedures like hip replacements, while Belgium offers immediate care.

Moreover, Belgium has been a choice destination for patients from numerous countries, such as Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Luxembourg, and a smaller patient group from Spain, Poland, Romania, and the USA. The trend has shown a marked increase, evidenced by a notable rise in such patients within a few years. Interestingly, these numbers don’t represent solely medical tourists.

A specific report by the “Observatoire de la mobilité des patients” encompassed data from a few years and showed that in a single year, Belgium catered to over 46,000 patients from its neighboring countries. This doesn’t account for those seeking dental or cosmetic procedures. A significant portion of these patients come from the Netherlands, marking a steady increase over the years.

Several factors propel Dutch citizens to opt for Belgian medical facilities. A prominent reason is the effort to bypass the extensive waiting times in their homeland. Furthermore, the anticipation of new cross-border healthcare rules, set to be introduced by both Belgium and the Netherlands, alongside the rise of Dutch insurance companies partnering with Belgian hospitals for better patient volume deals, has likely fuelled this trend. The mandatory health insurance policy in the Netherlands, which gives individuals a choice of service providers competing on service quality but not price, further compounds this dynamic.

The Observatory on Patient Mobility, initiated to gauge the effect of foreign patients on local Belgian medical institutions, has so far indicated no detrimental impact on the native population. Instead, the influx of overseas patients has financially benefited the hospitals. Moreover, many of these patients seek complex surgeries, ensuring that surgeons maintain their proficiency.

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