If you’re from a developed country and have been searching for medical treatments of any kind in the past several years, you’ve probably heard of the terms ‘medical tourism’, ‘medical vacation’, or at the very least, some mention of international travel for your treatment option.
While not a new concept by any means, medical tourism has taken the world by storm in the last decade, a result of the world becoming increasingly connected and easy to traverse. With affordable and efficient methods of transportation available to more and more people, treatment options are transcending the borders between countries. But the question remains…
What is Medical Tourism?
Medical Tourism is an industry that combines transportation, health care, and tourism, all into one affordable package. Including the businesses of finding affordable flights and medical treatment options at prime locations for a full vacation experience, countries offering medical tourism often have an economy established around tourism, and will professionally cater to visitors from around the world. Examples of such countries include Mexico, Hungary, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. Is going so far worth it though? That leads us to…
Why choose Medical Tourism?
Patients living in countries such as the US can save up to 50%-70% of their medical costs by undertaking their medical procedures abroad. This already takes into consideration the cost of everything, from the price of accommodations at prime vacation spots to the medical costs.
Yes, you read that correctly. We’re saying that even with the combined cost of travel, accommodation, and more, traveling abroad is more cost effective than undergoing your treatment in your domestic country.
Another reason is to forgo extensive waiting times. In the UK, for example, it is normal to have to wait up to 18 weeks for treatment if relying on National Health Service (NHS), making things highly inconvenient for patients. Moreover, the quality of service in some countries is higher as they specialize in specific types of procedures. An excellent example of this being the case is found in South Korea, where doctors and medical centers are world-renowned for their experience, knowledge, and pioneering technologies in the field of cosmetic and aesthetic medical treatment.
Medical care shouldn’t just be about getting the absolute best treatment that one can be given. It should also be affordable. Thus, the popularity of medical tourism is explained: it allows middle-class patients from the developed world to receive upper-class treatment. Price goes down, while quality goes up.
With all that said, we understand your concerns with putting your health and well-being on the line in a foreign country where you might not have your bearings. Worry not, because we’ve got a comprehensive list that, if followed, will ensure you have a great medical experience abroad.
How to Approach Medical Tourism
The Do’s and Don’ts when choosing an overseas healthcare provider:
To make things a little easier for you, we’ve gone ahead and put together a list with some key points of advice for whenever you’d like to give medical tourism a go. It can’t be overstated that this is just a baseline guide for you — your experiences may vary! But if you’re looking for a guide that covers most of the groundwork necessary to begin your journey, you’ve come to the right place.
1.) Location/Travel plans (public transport etc.)
Get a good idea of how you’ll be traveling at the medical destination of your choice. Chances are, the country you visit will have its share of tourism, meaning the possibility of being misled or scammed by folks looking to make a quick profit is there. Familiarizing yourself with how locals safely, reliably get around will help minimize stress and maximize your ability to explore and enjoy your medical vacation.
2.) Availability and waiting time
Yes, waiting times will be lower, but make sure to discuss waiting times with your medical center anyway so you can plan your trip accordingly. Getting your treatment right away? Plan a week at a beach-side hotel afterwards! Operating room will require a few days wait? Arrive early and explore the sights and food before receiving your treatment!
3.) Communication (language barriers etc.)
No, we’re not telling you to learn an entire language before you travel. But picking up a few key words or phrases might save you from plenty of headaches. At some of the more international destinations whose businesses and economy thrive on tourism — like Thailand — you might be able to get on by with English, but better be safe than sorry!
4.) Credentials and track record
Are you wowed by the affordability of a medical center, but are unsure whether the quality of its services will be up to standard? You can freely check for accreditation and awards that require constant upkeep, ensuring adherence to an international standard is maintained. Medical centers will be glad to answer any inquiries you have. Contact them directly for information regarding their quality and expertise. There’s no being “too brazen” here. Your health is the priority!
5.) Seeing the right type of specialist
While some medical centers may boast a large selection of medical treatments, we recommend you find a clinic that specializes in the treatment of your interest. Not only will you find prices to be more competitive among specialized centers, but the practitioners may be able to better answer and advise on any inquiries you have.
6.) Considering hospital affiliation
Knowing the affiliation of your medical center will give you a better grasp of the quality of its facilities, doctors, and perhaps even service you’ll be receiving. Often times, clinics and hospitals of the same specialization may be owned by the same parent company, or may share and cycle doctors between their facilities. This is done to streamline studies, research, and sometimes to provide to different types of patients. For example, one hospital may specialize in catering a field of medicine to seniors, while another may be pediatrics.
7.) Recommendations/referrals and 2nd opinions
Especially in an age where the internet dominates in the immediate sharing of information, reviews and referrals hold incredible weight and importance when considering where to go for medical treatment. While the days of face-to-face word of mouth recommendations may not be as prevalent, the increase in availability of transparent, trustworthy reviews more than makes up for it. The ability to read and hear from patients who may have received similar treatments to the ones you’re interested in give much needed insight to the quality of a medical center.
1.) Disregard advice from others as well as reviews
This goes without saying, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t mention it again. Your best resource is the connectedness of the internet, what with its ability to provide a coalition of the opinions and experiences of people who have been, or are going through the same process as you. Rather than entirely basing your opinion on theirs, perhaps use it as a guideline, and draw from their experiences in a way that leaves yourself room to form your own. After all, you know best how to manage your own expectations.
2.) Rush into decisions — take your time
The worst thing you could do for yourself is to rush into a decision. Give yourself the time to properly research and contact the centers about the treatments you’re interested in. If you’re unsure where to find more information, contact medical centers for great resources. Perhaps even schedule consultations with experienced doctors who may be able to give you invaluable advice.
3.) Disregard your own financial situation
Have you had your eye on the top rated clinic for a specific treatment, but it costs too much? Don’t forget that as with any other service in the modern age, different tiers of pricing come with different tiers of product. The most expensive, best reviewed clinic may simply provide a level of hospitality that is absolutely extraordinary, but has no lasting impact on the quality of your treatment. Don’t be misled by the notion that a more expensive option will result in better quality treatments. Breaking the bank for a cooler glass of water at reception or a warmer smile might not be the best option for you.
4.) Disregard your insurance
If you choose a reasonable medical destination with a reasonable price, we’re sure your medical insurance will be more than glad to pay the price. In fact, many internationally renowned medical insurers are quick to agree with medical tourism, as it saves them a ton of money. When treatments are literally a quarter of the cost in most medical tourist destinations, hotel and travel costs are small considerations to tack on.
5.) Don’t pressure yourself
That’s a whole host of things to keep in mind when choosing your medical destination, but most of all, don’t pressure yourself. If you’re new to medical tourism, and you’re just finding your way, take it step by step, and don’t expect to be able to make an informed decision within a day. The good news is, as medical tourism becomes more widespread and ubiquitous around the globe, it’ll be easier and easier for you to make your choice.