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Medical Tourism: What You Need to Know Before You Go

For the most part, travellers are trying to stay out of a hospital whilst they’re on holidays. But across the world there is an emerging class of voyagers crossing international borders with the sole purpose of obtaining affordable medical services which can range from dental work to liposuction. The proliferation of affordable air travel, skyrocketing costs of healthcare in developed countries, extended waiting lists and strains on health services due to aging populations have all contributed to global expansion in medical tourism across the past decade. And business is booming.

It’s not difficult to see why: the cost of heart bypass surgery is around $70,000 in the United States whilst the same surgery will cost just $7,000 in India — a saving of a staggering 90 percent. With rising costs of health care in developed countries, there are more and more people electing to have procedures completed abroad. But it’s not simply major invasive surgeries like gastric bypass or orthopedic operations being sought by medical tourists.

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There are equal numbers of people simply keen to regain their pearly white smile through laser whitening or seeking cheaper alternatives to some dermatological conditions. Here, we take a look through some of the considerations you should take into account if you are planning to hop on a plane for a nip or a tuck.

Find Out About Accreditation

In order to combat perceived differences in the quality of surgery and care, hospitals are increasingly opting to achieve accreditation from an external body in order to ensure that the standard of care provided is up to international, independent standards.The Joint Commission International (JCI) is the major international accreditation body so any international hospitals that are recognized as JCI accredited have had to meet, and must continue to meet, a minimum standard of care for patients. Accreditation information will often be prominently displayed on a clinic’s website, or you can check to see if a hospital is accredited here.

Do Your Homework

Research the facility and doctor on the internet. Accreditation is a major means of screening the hospital but individual doctors are not subject to the same screening. In most cases an accredited medical institution won’t risk their reputation by hiring unlicensed doctors, but it is still important to research the individuals that will be carrying out the surgery. A thorough search of the internet can often give you all the information you need, or at the very least, bring to your attention any important warning signs. Ask to speak to previous patients about their experiences. In addition to finding out whether the surgery was successful, it’s important to ask about the pre and postoperative care, whether they experienced any complications and how easy it was to source required medications.

Don’t Travel Alone

When preparing for a complicated surgery, it is advisable that medical tourists bring a friend or family member with them during the medical treatment for support. In any given surgery there is the initial treatment and then a recovery period, and recovery can vary greatly depending on how invasive the surgery is. Patients should also realize that being in a foreign country and experiencing any discomfort during the healing process can be stressful, so it is invaluable to have a friend or family member to provide moral and physical support during this period.

Involve Your Regular Doctor In Your Decision Making

You should work with your regular doctor when you elect to have surgery in another country, as you will likely be working together in preoperative and postoperative care. Ideally, it is best to have your international doctor be able to talk with your local doctor. This is good practice on both a medical level (your international physician should be made aware of any related health issues) and also to establish mutual trust between the two parties. Your local doctor has your health as their primary concern so it is important to give appropriate weighting to their opinion.

Remember Why You Went On ‘Holiday’

Whilst it may be tropical weather outside and the poolside bar has a Pina Colada with your name on it, it’s important to remember that the primary reason for your trip is a medical procedure. Prolonged exposure to the sun can darken scars, that pool can open you up to a variety of infections in any areas that required stitches or sutures and alcohol can have a negative impact on a range of painkillers. Surgery is serious business so be sure to prioritize your healing in order to minimize the risks of infection and other complications. If you’re keen to experience the country in which your procedure is taking place, try to do so beforehand or once you’ve allowed your body the requisite time to heal.

Ensure That Your Medical Insurance Covers You

In many cases, overseas elective medical treatments are not covered by standard travel and health insurance policies. Be sure to go over your policy with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you are covered for any potential complications. In most cases there are policies available specifically for medical tourism purposes so be sure to enquire whether your specific needs are covered by these policies.

Consider The Use Of A Medical Tourism Service Agency

The growth of the medical tourism industry has seen a parallel growth in medical tourism agents. The process of seeking out a medical professional to assist with your needs can be an exhausting one, which is where Medical Travel Facilitators are able to assist. These agents help clients find a country, hospital and surgeon to perform the surgery, and can help to book accommodation and to organize transfers and other logistical details. Medical Travel Facilitators have inspected the facilities, met the doctors and have established strong relationships with their affiliates.

A quality Medical Travel Facilitator is aware of the standards of quality healthcare in the areas that they specialize in and can recommend a surgeon or hospital based on a client’s individual needs. Be aware, however, that agent fees are often based on a percentage of the overall cost of the trip, and Facilitators often have a vested interest in ensuring you make that journey. I

f your commitment to undertaking a medically based trip is wavering, agents are not necessarily the best place for impartial advice, but in many cases a Facilitator will make your medical journey safe and smooth. If you are considering traveling abroad for a medical procedure and have any queries about whether or not this would be covered under a health insurance plan, get in touch and speak to one of our expert advisors – we’re always happy to help!

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