This article is a travel topic
Medical Tourism is a growing concept worldwide where people travel to another country for medical treatment at lower cost or to enjoy a vacation along with their treatment.
Typically, medical tourism involves residents of developed countries seeking medical treatment in developing countries; often the costs are much lower. Residents of countries with national health care schemes - such as Canada and Great Britain - sometimes travel overseas to avoid the long waiting times such schemes bring. Others may travel for cosmetic surgery not covered by insurance. However couples are increasingly seeking fertility treatments abroad. Others have sought more sophisticated surgery - such as cardiology treatments - overseas.
Availability of good low-cost medical services can also be a major factor in selecting a destination for retiring abroad.
Possible Benefits of Medical Tourism
The most favorite medical tourism destinations worldwide currently are:
Joint Commission International accredited private hospitals, state-of-the-art-equipment, proximity to the United States and Canada, English-speaking medical personnel, highly trained doctors, dentists, oral surgeons, and cosmetic surgeons with costs generally up to 70% of what would be paid in the United States.
Greece is becoming increasingly popular as destination for high quality cosmetic surgery especially for patients from United Kingdom. Because Greece is a member of the European Union, its health industry is kept to a good standard and under thorough checks and safety regulations. In private sector the Metropolitan Hospital in Athens is regarded as being the best in Greece, and the plastic surgeons associated with that hospital are among the best. Greece is also traditionally regarded as a popular tourist destination and therefore its tourism and service sectors are well developed. The widespread knowledge of English language among the general population is also an advantage.
Specially for heart surgery, hip resurfacing, cosmetic surgery and high end surgeries. English as a primary language is also an advantage.
Has highly accredited hospitals and a very high quality infrastructure
Thailand has emerged in recent years as one of the top destinations in the world for medical tourism. It has highly accredited hospitals and specialists, growing infrastructure with low labor costs resulting in lower treatment costs.
Thailand has achieved this status due to a constellation of key factors that make the country a very attractive destination for medical tourists. Its hospitals are modern and of the highest standard, with 30 having achieved JCI accreditation. Many of its doctors are Western-trained and certified, and the medical staff are highly professional, skilled, and experienced in managing foreign patients. Finally, the costs are dramatically lower than comparable healthcare in the West, frequently 50-70% less.
Medical tourism in Thailand is booming, as demonstrated by the roughly 2.5 million medical tourists who came to Thailand from around the world for medical treatment in 2012, bringing in some 121.6 billion Thai baht. This growth shows no signs of relenting; rather, quite the opposite, with the medical tourism industry’s rate of growth at roughly 16% per annum, and key government organizations lending their support, including the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Board of Investment of Thailand, and the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Center.
Furthermore, 45% of these patients came with an accompanying party, bringing another 670,000 visitors to Thailand. This report, by the Kasikorn Survey Center, estimated that receipts from Thailand’s medical tourism industry came to at least 140 billion Thai baht in 2012. Any way you look at it, medical tourism is big business in Thailand, and getting bigger every year.
More and more of Thailand’s private hospitals – especially in Bangkok and the country’s largest cities – have international relations departments that help in all aspects of the medical tourism experience; the same holds true for dental facilities, spas, and wellness centers. Some of the hospitals offer translation and interpretation services in many languages; for example, Arabic, Bengali, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese.
Although famous in the popular imagination for sex-change procedures, the truth is that Thailand can now treat virtually any disease or condition, perform most every procedure and operation you can imagine. Among the most popular fields that travelers seek out are dental care, dermatology, and fertility treatments.
Aside from all the JCI accredited hospitals, a number of others have received Clinical Care Program Certification (CCPC), which assures high standards and best practices in the treatment of specific serious conditions that include heart failure, stroke, many types of cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, joint replacement, and a number of other major diseases and conditions.
Bangkok’s renowned Bumrungrad International Hospital is the largest private hospital in Asia, and the first Asian hospital accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), the international arm of the organization that reviews and accredits American hospitals. JCI sends a team to re-review hospitals at 3-year intervals. Bumrungrad was first accredited in 2002, re-accredited in 2005, 2008 and 2011. As of September 2012, 30 hospitals in Thailand were JCI-accredited.
Bumrungrad International Hospital, the flagship of medical tourism in Thailand, is known for performing a most any advanced medical procedure; among these: coronary artery bypass grafts, hip replacements and spinal fusions.
Further, another 350 Thai hospitals have been awarded Hospital Accreditation (HA) by the Ministry of Public Health; these are first-rate institutions providing quality medical care by experienced professionals as well, and can manage most patients’ complaints very well.
High quality infrastructure and good quality doctors
Dental care is the best deal here. Being a border country with the United States, the benefit is obvious. Many people in the Border states often travel to Mexico for Dental Care and minor checks out of convenience, and the quality in Private Clinics and Hospitals is just about the same.
The US has an unheralded advantage in medical tourism. The US has a reputation for leading edge technological innovation and this is particularly true in the area of medicine. Inbound medical tourists to the US are not motivated by price, but by the highest levels of medical skill and technology. Inbound medical tourists come to the US to obtain procedures when specific qualifications are needed, or to use technology not available in their own countries. Some simply travel for the luxury of a vacation they can combine with their medical procedure.
Be sure you are allowing enough time in your travel to receive follow up care. You may need to stay days or weeks beyond the date of the medical procedure itself. Be realistic about the finances of medical tourism. Sure the medical treatment itself may be cheap. But when you add on airfare, hotels, taxis, restaurants -- all in an unfamiliar city -- the actual cost may be close to what you would pay at home.
Next, involve your home doctor in your plans! Having major surgery in a faraway country is not a decision you should take lightly. Research - what sort of questions should you ask your doctor about this procedure? How is the procedure typically performed, and will it be done this way where you travel? Who credentials doctors and hospitals in your destination country, and what credentials do your intended providers have? You should also determine what level of follow up care your procedure may require - in the days, weeks, and even years after the procedure. Who will provide this follow up care?
Not all medical tourism is enjoyed by patients travelling away from their home country, or traveling to a third world region. For instance, migraine surgery is performed only in the US, and attracts patients from the Middle East and Africa, since their surgeons aren't able to perform this. If you are considering traveling from within your country or outside of it, be sure to explore all of your options. Seek assistance from many sources in locating the right doctor and the right country.
Consider the languages you speak and what is spoken in your country. In some countries, such as Singapore, India, the Philippines and South Africa, most educated people speak English. This can be an important consideration.
Lastly confirm, and double check, your plans. How can you contact family members while abroad? Do you need a special visa or proof of ability to afford treatment in order to enter your destination country?
In the past, some discredited or bogus doctors set up shop outside US borders to promote dubious or dangerous treatments or outright scams (alleged cures for cancer, lengthening body parts, etc.) Medical tourism today is far removed from these scammers but one must still be vigilant. At the very least, see a trusted doctor in your home country and discuss your plans for overseas treatment.
Reputation counts in medical treatment overseas. Look for top quality hospitals and clinics with well known doctors.
Realize that, should a worst-case scenario occur, your legal avenues for making a malpractice claim or filing a lawsuit will be greatly reduced and often nonexistent. Freedom from frivolous lawsuits and huge insurance premiums are one reason why some doctors choose to practice overseas and can offer low cost treatments. On the other hand, this type of legal environment makes seeking doctors of good reputation all the more important.