What is Medical Tourism?

In basic terms, Medical Tourism can be defined as traveling outside your country of residence to receive medical care. Some of the more popular treatments include cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and heart surgery. The tourism aspect comes into play because these treatments are often and can easily be paired with sightseeing or tourist packages. Coupling these things together can provide a great excuse to take a trip you’ve been saving up for, to use sick days that may have otherwise gone to waste, or to double up on vacation time by effectively converting these sick days into something more enjoyable.

If you’re reading this article you’ve at least considered an alternative to your standard local health care. Many covered American’s have opted to go abroad for quality treatment. The following facts may help you decide if medical tourism is right for you.

Is it cost effective?

The most obvious benefit to international medical care is the price. Take India and Thailand’s dental practices for example, where some oral surgeries and procedures are less than half the price of the same treatment in the united states. These facilities tend to be in excellent condition and staffed with skilled practitioners. In fact, it is a huge misconception that foreign procedures are always paid out of pocket by the patient. In most cases, insurers will be willing to pay for your expenses abroad to avoid paying domestic rates. Research is your friend.

Quality & service levels

Service and quality are two other frequently questioned elements of medical tourism. You will often find US licensed practitioners working overseas. One of the benefits of this arrangement for these practitioners is workload. Doctors tend to have a greater amount of time and energy to dedicate to their patients than American doctors could normally commit. Studies also suggest that in most cases, patients tend to receive more personal service when receiving care across borders.

Some doctors are trained in the US but are part of a government program that requires them to return home after graduation. In Thailand, this can last for put to 12 years. Others choose to practice in their home country because being a physician in the US may not garner the same level of respect they would normally receive from their home country in their position. Not to mention they may work fewer hours with less stress. There are many reasons for skilled doctors staying in the country they were raised, which means there are many very skilled practitioners overseas.

Types of Medical Tourism

There are a few types of Medical Tourism.

  • The first is “Outbound.” Simply put, this patient leaves their home country, in the US for example, to receive treatment abroad, in say, India.
  • Next is “Inbound.” This is when someone who is in a foreign country travels to their home country for medical services.
  • Lastly, is “Domestic or Intrabound,” this can be defined as patients traveling within their home country, state to state, or province to province, and is generally the least common form.

Where should I visit?

Now that you have a grasp on what Medical Tourism is and you understand the different types, you can start to think about the destinations you’d like to visit. Some of the more popular medical tourism destinations include; India, Thailand, Costa Rica, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, and Mexico. However, you can find localized specialized resources in many other countries depending on your needs, budgets, sense of adventure, and tourism aspirations.

Choose your location after careful consideration. Sometimes facilities closer to home may be better equipped for your specific medical needs.

What are the risks?

A few risks to keep in mind are communication issues (language barriers), counterfeit medications, and antibiotic resistance. The good news is that these risks can be eliminated or minimized through proper research, and/or by considering the use of a reputable medical tourism referral agency. These agencies generally receive commission from the medical service companies they are including in their recommendations, and so should not be adding additional cost to the services you’re ultimately paying for. This can provide an added layer of vetting, as these agencies would have confirmed that the companies or packages they are recommending are legitimate and have at least been vetted to some extent.

What should I do before booking?

If you can find reviews, read them.

Check credentials of the facilities and physicians your using, and be sure to check the licensing requirements in the country where you’ve chosen to travel to for your treatment.

It’s always recommended to meet with your doctor abroad for a consultation before the actual procedure. Ensure your local health care provider knows of your plans and provides you with their recommendation. Lastly, always consider language barriers while choosing where to get your procedure done. If you go to a country where you do not speak the language be sure to have something lined up before you arrive such as a translator, or an on hand bi-lingual tour guide.

It is always important to bring copies, not the actual document, of all your prescriptions. Include a list of all the medicines you take, their brand names, generic names, manufacturers, dosages and medical records. You will also of course need your passport, a second form of ID, and some emergency cash.

One of the last things to have lined up before you leave for any treatment is to set up a follow up appoint with your local healthcare provider. Don’t forget to arrange travel accommodations dependent on the type of treatment, as many surgeries prevent a patient from flying for a certain period. This can be a good time to relax on the beach or enjoy the local cuisine.

Is it right for me?

Change can be scary, but nothing gets better without change. We tend to discover the best things outside of our comfort zone. Simply because something is new doesn’t mean it’s not right or bad. Medical Tourism can be a very safe and affordable solution to many of our healthcare problems.

Treatments from well-trained US licensed practitioners can be obtained abroad, and many countries are equipped with excellent facilities and high-quality training programs for medical personnel.

Times are tough for many. We can work hard, but sometimes a crippling medical bill or unexpected procedure can bring everything to a screeching halt. What can you do? Well, if you’re willing to do your research and spend the proper time to take the right precautions, then Medical Tourism could be just the right solution. You owe it to yourself to know your options.

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