Last year more than 180,000 Americans packed their bags and headed overseas for nearly every imaginable type of medical treatment: tummy tucks in Brazil, heart valve replacements in Thailand, hip resurfacing surgeries in India, addiction recovery in Antigua, fertility diagnosis and treatments in South Africa, or restorative dentistry in Mexico.
Currently, at least 28 countries on four continents cater to the international health traveler, with more than 2 million patients visiting hospitals and clinics each year in countries other than their own. The roster of treatments is as varied as the travelers. If the notion of complex medical procedures in far-flung lands seems intimidating, don’t feel alone.
Why go abroad for medical care?
Most people like to go get the most for their dollar. The single biggest reason Americans travel to other countries for medical treatment is the opportunity to save money. Depending upon the country and type of treatment, uninsured and underinsured patients, as well as those seeking elective care, can realize 15-85 percent savings over the cost of treatment in the US. Or, as one successful health traveler put it, “I took out my credit card instead of a second mortgage on my home.”
As baby boomers become senior boomers, cost of healthcare and prescriptions are devouring nearly 30 percent of retirement and pre-retirement incomes. With the word getting out about top-quality treatments at deep discounts overseas, informed patients are finding creative alternatives abroad.
Better quality care
Veteran health travelers know that facilities, instrumentation, and customer service in treatment centers abroad often equal or exceed those found in the US. Governments of countries such as India and Thailand have poured billions of dollars into improving their healthcare systems, which are now aggressively catering to the international health traveler. VIP waiting lounges, deluxe hospital suites, and staffed recuperation resorts are common amenities, along with free transportation to and from airports, low-cost meal plans for companions, and discounted hotels affiliated with the hospital.
Some procedures and prescriptions are simply not allowed in this country. Either Congress or the FDA has specifically disallowed a certain treatment, or perhaps it’s still in the testing and clinical trials stage or was only recently approved. Such treatments are often offered abroad. One example is an orthopedic procedure known as hip resurfacing, for most patients a far superior, longer lasting and less expensive alternative to the traditional hip replacement still practiced in the US. While this procedure has been performed for more than a decade throughout Europe and Asia, it was only recently approved in US, and its availability remains spotty ad unproven. Hundreds of Americans, many having suffered years of chronic pain, have found relief in India, where hip surfacing techniques, materials, and instrumentation have been perfected, and the procedure is routine.
Shorter waiting periods
For decades, thousands of Canadian and British subscribers to universals, “free” healthcare plans have endured waits as long as two years for established procedures. Here in US, long waits are a growing problem, particularly among war veterans covered under the Veterans Administration Act, for whom long queues are becoming far too common. Some patients figure it’s better to pay out-of-pocket to get out of pain or to halt a deteriorating condition than to suffer the anxiety and frustration of waiting for a far-future appointment and other medical uncertainties.
As US health insurance companies apply increasing pressure on hospitals to process patients as quickly as possible, outpatient procedures are becoming the norm. Similarly, US hospitals are under huge pressure to move inpatients out of those costly beds as soon as possible. Medical travelers will welcome the flexibility at the best hospitals abroad, where they are often encouraged to spend extra time in the hospital post-procedure. Staff-to-patient ratio are usually lower abroad, as are hospital-borne infection rates.
The Lure of the new and different
Although traveling abroad for medical care can be challenging, many patients welcome the chance to blaze a trail, and they find the comforts often offered abroad a welcome relief from the sterile, impersonal hospital environments so often encountered in US. For others, simply being in a new and interesting culture lends distraction to an otherwise worrisome, tedious process. And getting away from the myriad obligations of home and professional life can yield healthful effects at a stressful time.
What’s more, travel – and particularly international travel – can be a life-changing experience. You might be humbled by the limousine ride from Indira Gandhi International Airport to a hotel in central New Delhi or struck by the simple, elegant graciousness of professionals and ordinary people in Thailand, or wowed by the sheer beauty of the mountain range outside a dental office window in Mexico. As one veteran medical traveler put it, “I brought back far more from this trip than a new set of teeth.”
[Excerpt from: Patients Beyond Borders by Josef Woodman. ©2009 Patients Beyond Borders; All Rights Reserved, No Duplication without prior permission]
Patients Beyond Borders
Author Josef Woodman has spent more than three years researching contemporary medical tourism, interviewing patients, practitioners, administrators, government officials and specialists in the field, while conducting an extensive analysis of safety records, accreditations, success rates and consumer trends. With significant resources and contacts from his pioneering background in health technology, Woodman has compiled a wealth of information for the American public about important healthcare choices.
Part One: How to Become a Savvy, Informed Medical Traveler, gives you all the information and tools you need to make safe, intelligent and cost-effective decisions about healthcare abroad. It carefully covers each aspect of medical travel planning and proposes many critical questions to help you obtain the best possible services.
Part Two: The Most-Traveled Health Destinations provides never-before-published information on treatment centers, health travel agents, treatment specialties and super-specialties, recovery retreats, accommodations and more.
When you read Patients Beyond Borders you’ll learn:
- How to determine if medical travel is right for you, an impartial overview of benefits and cautions. (Plus “20 Do’s and Don’ts for the Smart Health Traveler”).
- How to find the best hospitals and clinics around the world, with detailed accreditation information, treatment specialties and comparative costs.
- To plan and budget your trip for the safest, most cost-effective health journey. Includes hundreds of practical tips on getting the very best treatment, often at significant savings.
Today, the world’s safest, best choices in healthcare facilities and physicians are available to health travelers who plan and budget wisely, and this indispensible eBook will allow you to become a savvy, informed international patient. You’ll especially want to have this guide handy, because not only is Patients Beyond Borders the easy-to-follow guide to health tourism, it’s also an excellent manual for overseas travel that will benefit you in many ways.
|Patients Beyond Borders
by Josef Woodman