Medical tourism, as a more advantageous way of treatment, is a noticeable trend through almost all continents. Americans are flying to Mexico as their health care is expensive, Australians chose India to get their teeth fixed, in Europe Brits, Germans and Scandinavians are traveling willingly to Poland, Czech and Hungary in search of high-quality plastic surgery, dental implants, orthopedic treatments, bariatric surgeries and cancer treatment.
In the majority of cases, money is the trigger. But, as health is the most valuable thing we have, there are always some doubts before medical travel. What if it will not go as I expected? What if the doctor will not speak my language? What if the travel will be too strenuous for me? What if they will charge me more? This question appears in the heads of future Patients. Today we will try to investigate if going abroad for treatment is worth it, and what should pay attention at, before deciding about which clinic/tour operator/facilitator to chose.
Let’s start with the dark side of medical tourism
- Safety & Liability – You need to face this – usually during treatment arrangement, you will not meet the Doctor or your medical travel facilitators personally. This fact may be confusing. Sometimes, if the hospital or company propose two visits – first to make a diagnosis, qualification and to get you more familiar with the medical staff and country’s traditions – do not treat it as a spoof. It might be a great chance for you to judge if you want to undergo your surgery in this particular hospital, if you trust this Doctor and if the Doctor listens to your needs and expectations. But often you just want to fix your teeth, and the first diagnostic visit is not necessary. Well, at first you should look carefully into Doctors testimonials; also check if the company is registered. Being in personal contact with a Patient Coordinator is also a good sign. Check what is included in the price – in the UK usually the price of the procedure shown on the website does not contain the anesthesiologist assist, the cost of prosthesis/ implant, the night stay in the hospital and rehabilitation. If you would not like to be surprised, ask your contact person about the estimated price of all extras. Check if the clinic takes responsibility for the possible failure of the procedure (if it has an insurance policy and quality certifications).
- Long distance travel – Be prepared that in most cases you need to fly. It should not be a problem in general, but consider the destination due to the time you can spend on the plane. If you come from Sweden and are willing to undergo bariatric surgery, it may be more convenient to you to come to Poland rather than fly to the Philippines, even if you can spare some SEK. There are also Patients who are not longer able to travel – people in old age with a fragile health should probably not risk the pressure change during flight. Note that if you are disabled than traveling should not be a problem – just inform your travel facilitator and airlines – they will assign an airport assistant.
- Aftercare – And so, you have already met the staff, the flight went smooth, and the surgery was fortunate. What comes next? How long will you stay in the clinic? Who will take care of you in your home country? Please check with the clinic if you can stay longer than a citizen (often surgeries are made in a one-day routine) and if this will be additionally charged. Prepare yourself for rehabilitation, physiotherapy, exercise, changing your habits. Schedule coming back to daily activities with consideration – discuss with your Doctor when you will be able to drive a car after the procedure when you can get back to work or simply stop using crutches/glasses/bandages or so.
- Complications – unexpected events may surprise you because they are… unexpected. Remember that even in the best hospital and with best surgeon things may go wrong. Ask your medical travel facilitator or your clinic what happens if the complications occur. Will be there a possibility of a longer stay? Of re-operation? Of special treatment? Every procedure carries out a small risk – do not be afraid of it – surgeries are mostly very common and safe, but nevertheless you should ask how it works.
- Language – in most countries Doctors and medical staff do speak English. Even so, sometimes there might occur a communication problem. Do not panic – you can always ask someone to translate. Speak slowly and clearly – even if your nurse owns an English Language Certificate she might not understand precisely your old Scottish dialect. Make sure everyone understands you.
- Paperwork – If you go abroad for treatment there are always some documents to take care of. Plane tickets, medical records, forms and others. If you are claiming a reimbursement for the medical travel cost by your Health Provider that is also a lot of papers. Usually, you can find a guide how to fill all of the forms; sometimes the medical travel facilitator offers help.
OK, assume that you have dealt with all of above and still willing to grab your health record, flip flops and pajamas to travel abroad to undergo a medical procedure – we should now skip to the advantages of traveling abroad for surgery or treatment:
- Price – without a question price is the main reason to search for medical help abroad. You can save between 30% up to 80 % – this sounds like an affordable offer! If you add all of the extra costs in your country (for example in USA or GB – anesthesiologist, implant, rehabilitation) the price difference is even greater. No doubts it is an important point and a great incentive to become a medical tourist.
- Specialization on a particular procedure – In many clinics there are well educated and trained doctors who got specialized only in one particular medical procedure in their field – for example, they have 30 years old experience and over 3000 bariatric surgeries performed. This may sound impressive, and a chance that this surgeon has seen many different cases is also reassuring. If you are searching by yourself, try to find the best specialist. If you are using a medical travel facilitator’s help then make sure that quality and Doctor’s experience is a priority for them.
- Waiting time – Choosing a medical travel option you get almost immediate access to the procedure you need. Sometimes this point may be life-saving, especially when it comes to oncologic procedures not widely accessible in your country. For example waiting time for NHS hip replacement in GB is about 2 years. This is unacceptable, but often you can search for help in the different country, and if everything goes well you can even get a cost reimbursement.
- Vacation .You can connect your medical travel with some business deals or with sightseeing. Imagine planning family holidays with two days stop for dental treatment in one of the EEA countries! Doing a filling or whitening does not require a long convalescence and one hour after your visit you may jump on the road again. It is not so simple with more complicated procedures, as you may be to tired and not able to perambulate, but if you decide to go with an accompanying person, there are many organizations glad to organize some of the exciting activities for him. You may also undergo some other procedure and give yourself time to convalescence and relax in SPA Hotel or by the clinic facilities.
- Many facilities to choose from – medical travel opens you a door to almost every clinic and hospital in the world. This means that you are no longer stuck with your regional health care units. Feel free to decide if you want to be operated with the same plastic surgeon as a movie star or in the clinic where only modern and innovative methods are used. You can read testimonials, compare prices, chose a country or a region.
- The complexity of the service – Have in mind that a medical procedure is not only about what the surgeon does but also about your work during rehabilitation, your diet appropriate to your health and the medical condition, dressing changes, diagnostics before and after and much more. It is worth to use the complex services – for your health and good recovery. After such a complicated procedure as the hip replacement, it is crucial to get a good and professional aftercare, physical activity under experienced physiotherapist supervision and a special movable hospital bed.
- Internationally valued Doctors – It is worth traveling to get the best medical care. Your health and physical fitness depends on the success of the surgery. Don’t let it pivot on a fate – chose your Doctor deliberately. There are many ways to check if the Doctor is experienced and valued – national websites with ratings, you can check if the clinic provides the photography with the description, maybe a short movie. It is always easier if you use a facilitator’s service, as they usually cooperate only with recognized and good specialists, and they have investigated the local market.
- Privacy – Sometimes you just wish not to meet a nosy neighbor in the health centre -next day everyone will chatter about your health problems. We know it ‘s hard to hide a physical disability, but if you are planning a plastic surgery, it will be a great comfort for you to recover in the calm and peaceful clinic with the best care than to let your husband see you with swallowed and bruised face or in bandages. It is also much nicer to hear a statement from a work colleague “Hey, you look good! “ than “oh, was it painful to undergo a facelift?“
There are many issues to take into consideration before going abroad for treatment, but it seems worth to face those little problems with paperwork and doing a proper research because nothing is worth more than your health and serenity. We recommend using organizations where Patient’s assistants and coordinators will guide you through the whole stay and procedures. Additional costs and commissions are usually very cheap, and you can be sure that a professional takes care of the details. If you have a family member or relative from a country where medical care is cheaper than in yours, it might be a good idea to ask for help.