Generally people who need a medical procedure performed rely on their doctor to find the proper specialists and medical facilities. This is often, but not always the best course of action.
Others who need to undergo a medical procedure may do some research on their own to find the best doctor and hospital in which to receive treatment.
This is a smart idea, as not all doctors and medical facilities have the same level of expertise, experience, and success, and some may not even have the best of intentions.
If people make a common mistake in this research phase, though, it’s limiting themselves in the range of their search. Some people will only look for hospitals and doctors in their home city, while others may limit the search to a particular region. But if you’re not opening your medical procedure search to the entire world, you may be missing a great opportunity.
Traveling abroad for a medical procedure is a phenomenon now called “medical tourism.” An increasing number of people requiring medical care are now leaving their home countries to find a doctor who is an expert in a particular procedure. As shown in the infographic below, 750,000 Americans annually travel for medical treatment outside the United States. Medical tourism is growing in popularity for a few different reasons.
The Benefits of Medical Tourism
- Finding a bargain. While you shouldn’t make a decision on your medical care on price alone, about 80% of people are motivated to try medical tourism because of the lower cost versus having the procedure done in their home country. Make sure the low price you’re quoted for a particular procedure in a foreign country includes everything you need to have done, and make sure the doctor performing the procedure is experienced.
- Procedures that can’t be done at home. Some countries have approved medical procedures that may not yet be approved in your home country. If, after extensive research and discussions with your doctor at home, you feel like this procedure will provide you with the benefits you need, you may want to plan a trip around that particular procedure.
- Surgery and sightseeing. About 38% of people who participate in medical tourism are looking to have a non-essential procedure done; perhaps cosmetic surgery. Because this type of procedure sometimes isn’t as medically invasive as other types of surgeries, you may have a faster recovery time, allowing you to do some sightseeing. So if you can combine a medical trip with traditional tourism, you may be tempted to undergo non-essential cosmetic surgery outside your home country. In fact, 90% of people undergoing medical procedures outside their home country or a companion on the trip participates in some form of tourism activity before or after the medical procedure.
The Risks of Medical Tourism
Before agreeing to have a medical procedure done outside of your home country, you do have to consider a few risks, four of which are listed below. To deal with these risks and to provide some protection for yourself financially and health-wise, consider using a medical tourism agent to set up the details for your trip and procedure.
- Blood donations. If you need a blood infusion during your procedure, the local blood bank may not have the same screening procedures for accepting donations as your blood bank at home.
- There’s no guarantee the medical personnel will speak your language.
- The guidelines for sterilization may not be as strict in a foreign country versus a hospital in your home country.
- Medication guidelines. Procedures in place at your home hospital regarding how medications are protected from counterfeiting may not be in place at a foreign hospital.
Even if everything in the foreign country is perfect for your medical procedure, you still may have some financial concerns before you choose to participate in medical tourism. What if your trip is interrupted or delayed by an unstable foreign government or by terrorism concerns? And if the doctor makes a negligent mistake during your procedure, will you have any rights for a malpractice suit as a foreign visitor? As mentioned above, a medical tourism agency can help you iron out these questions, so you can completely focus on your medical procedure and on healing successfully!