A Few Words About Medical Tourism

First, a disclaimer. This article is meant only to be a general overview of the concept of medical tourism. Nothing that follows should be considered as medical advice. It is just the result of personal study of medical tourism, nothing else. I am not qualified to give medical advice and you would be foolish to listen to me if I said I was.

Lately I’ve been exploring the idea of medical tourism. There are some very good reasons why you might want to think about it too as retirement looms.

As we get older our consumption of medical services increases, and the cost of the required treatment gets higher. There are a lot more 70 year olds who need new knees than there are 30 year olds.

Medical costs in the United States are some of the highest in the world and the costs are rising at staggering rates. It also seems likely that fiscal pressures will raise the risk that government will force seniors to absorb more of the cost of their treatment. Looking at possibly 30 years of fixed income and sharply rising costs, it only seems prudent to look for ways to reduce those costs.

Depending on where you are going and what you are having done, costs savings for the most common medical tourism categories can range as high as 90%. Though those savings might not be as great, or exist at all, depending on your medical insurance.

One example is the average cost of knee surgery as reported by  International Federation of Health Plans. In the US this surgery would cost you $28,184. In the Switzerland it would be $20,132. In the UK – $18,451. And in Spain, it would come in at $6,687.

If the idea of having a major medical procedure done, throwing in the cost of a quality vacation, and still possibly saving some money intrigues you, read on.

The CDC defines medical tourism as simply “traveling to another country for medical care.” They also state on their website that “Receiving medical care abroad can be risky”

Receiving medical care abroad can be risky. That statement should be at the forefront of your thoughts whenever you are thinking about going abroad for medical care. It can be hard enough to select a good provider near to home. The difficulties only rise from there.

There are plenty of stories of people who flew to another country and got excellent care at much lower cost. It is also not hard to find tales of the other kind.

Here are eight things you should keep in mind when planning medical tourism for your health care needs.

One – Don’t try to wing it. While putting together a vacation yourself by visiting websites and booking everything yourself can work, the idea that you should be able to do the same for planning a medical procedure can be a dangerous one. Consider using a qualified service for planning your trip.

Two – Make sure the providers of the health care you will be receiving have good credentials. Since standards can vary from country to country, check with one of the accrediting groups who have lists of standards international facilities must meet in order to be accredited. These include the International Society for Quality in Healthcare and Joint Commission International.

Three – Be sure that your current provider is aware of what you have planned, and that any current medical conditions are under control.

Four – get an agreement in writing that includes every last detail of what treatment you will be receiving, including facilities, supplies, treatments and care.

Five – consider possible language difficulties and how they will be handled.

Six – Take along copies of all of your medical records including all that are immediately relevant to the procedure you are having done. Also take comprehensive records of your prescriptions of the medicines you take.

Seven – Come up with a plan for follow up care with your local provider.

Eight – Bring back all of the medical records involving the treatment you had abroad.

Keep in mind that all of the same concerns you would have with medical procedures (plus a few more) apply to medical tourism. These include:

Risk that the medications you receive are substandard. Counterfeiting prescription drugs is a huge money maker world wide, and the safeguards you enjoy against receiving counterfeit medications at home may not exist where you are headed.

Problems with the blood supply. If you should happen to require a transfusion during your procedure, you may be relying on a blood supply that lacks the oversight common in the more developed nations.

Traveling right after surgery can increase the risk of post operative blood clots.

Follow up care can be a problem when you return home, especially if you have complications.

You might not have legal recourse if something goes wrong with the procedure.

One seldom mentioned aspect of medical tourism is the source of transplanted organs. If you consider travelling abroad for a transplant procedure, you might want to give a thought to how the organ you are receiving might have been acquired.

Medical tourism is a growth industry these days, and with good reason. But the fact that it is rising in popularity and acceptance does not mean that it is something that should be undertaken lightly.

Since providing medical treatment to citizens from other countries can be a lucrative practice, there is pressure on practitioners to exaggerate their qualifications, under report complications, and charge more for their services to uneducated travellers than they need to.

That is why many medical tourists choose to connect with a company or group that is experienced in the industry in order to make sure they receiving top quality care and are not being over charged.

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