Medical tourism is a rapidly growing market segment. A report published in 2011 estimated that there are 5 million people travelling globally for treatment (including dental, cosmetic and fertility treatment). Over 300 regions offer medical tourism services. With many people being attracted by the possibility of combining travel with medical treatment and more countries competing for medical tourists this industry is set to grow.
So, as a medical tourist what do you need to do to prepare for your trip?
Many people research a country they are interested in or one that is well-known for a certain type of procedure. For example, India has a reputation for heart surgery and Costa Rica is recommended for dental work.
“Personal contacts work best,” San Francisco medical tourism entrepreneur Robert Hemphill told the Contra Costa Times. “If you know somebody in the country, start with them.”
Research the hospital and physician as much as possible. Determine if the facility, department and staff are accredited by organisations like Joint Commision International (JCI). Many hospitals will have this information on their websites, but it is a good idea to check the licence and outcome data for your surgeon and anaesthetist.
Many people are turning to medical tourism facilitators. These companies arrange the whole process from transferring your medical records, organizing transport and even sending a representative to be with you through the procedure.
If you do choose to use a medical tourism company check the company carefully as many vary in terms of service quality. Other disadvantages can be additional fees or favouritism towards certain facilities or countries.
It is important to notify your regular doctor or health care provider that you are going abroad for treatment. It’s likely they will be providing follow-up care once you arrive home.
In terms of your health insurance, don’t assume procedures will be covered. In fact many insurers don’t cover medical treatment abroad. If this is the case you will have to take out additional coverage.
In addition, be prepared for a longer stay as postoperative complications may occur, ensure you have enough funds to cover a longer stay. In Hemphill’s view, preparation and post-care are as important as the procedure itself.