General concept of medical tourism is not new. Healing centers in ancient times combined prayer and medicine. Believing that illness was caused by the spirit world, healers implored the gods for assistance. Patients seeking relief traveled to these temples, Greece and Rome developed their own temples. In about 600 B.C. the Greeks created healing temples for Asclepius, their god of medicine. SPA towns may be considered an early form of medical tourism.
Factors that have led to the recent increase in popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care or wait times for procedures in industrialized nations, the ease and affordability of international travel and improvements in technology and standards of care in many countries of the world.