Medical tourism – answers to some frequently asked questions

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Many developing countries are emerging as hot medical tourism destinations capitalizing on low cost advantages and emergence of several private players. However, there are few inhibitions pertaining to hygiene and infrastructure in third world countries.

Through proper planning and preparation, travelers can get around these concerns ...and enjoy a happy, safe and successful medical travel experience.

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Medical tourism – answers to some frequently asked questions

  1. 1. Medical Tourism – Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions Today, many people travel great distances to exotic locations or health care facilities in faraway countries, in search of medical treatment and care. Medical Tourism is an age-old concept that has gained popularity in the recent times. Many developing countries are emerging as hot medical tourism destinations capitalizing on low cost advantages and emergence of several private players.According to a study report prepared by Research and Markets (Asian Medical TourismAnalysis 2008-2012), the Asian medical tourism industry is growing at a double-digit growthrate. It estimated that Thailand, India, and Singapore controlled more than 90% share of Asia‟smedical tourism industry in 2009. India has been envisaged to emerge as the front leader inmedical tourism industry, accounting for around 26% of the region‟s industry by 2012capitalizing on competitive advantage in terms of availability of trained doctors and physicians.With economic growth, the medical infrastructure & technology is also improving at a fast pace.Government of India has also boosted private investment in medical facility with the socialeconomic zone (SEZ) in healthcare sector like BioPure Integrated Health SEZ, RealtechMedicity and Mediville Medical City. India, known so far as an offshore destination for IT and ITeS, would soon emerge as the medical capital of the world. The medical tourism market in India was estimated at $333 million in 2004 and projected to reach $2.3 billion by 2012 (CII & McKinsey Study). India‟s forte lies in Dental Tourism. As dental work in India is good, yet economical, dentists receive patronage from people from SAARC region, Middle East Africa and the West; for dental check- up, tartar cleaning and teeth replacement. An extraction in India would cost around $3, whereas the same procedure in US or a European country would cost approx. $100 or €100 respectively.According to Center for Medical Tourism Research (2010), it was estimated that 1.12 millionAmericans traveled for medical treatment in 2009, including dental and cosmetic surgerypatients but not spa and wellness travellers. The „Survey of Health Care Consumers‟ done byDeloitte & Touche 2008 (online survey of more than 3,000 Americans) expects medical tourismto grow at a rapid pace over the near future. The key reasons includes increase cost of health carein developed countries, availability of safe and quality care in developing nations withinternational accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI) and others and last butnot the least, saving of more than 50% in medical expenses.Medical Cost Comparison (in %)
  2. 2. (Source: “Patient Beyond Border” by Josef Woodman and Global Benefits Options).Note: Costs are for surgery, including hospital stay only.On prima facie, Jordan may appear as the cheapest country for medical treatment, followed byColombia and India. However, different countries have different cost advantages for the medicaltourist. It is important for the medical tourist to identify the country which offers clear costadvantages in comparison to other country, offering at par level of services. Surgery Cheapest Second Lowest Third Lowest Heart Bypass India Jordan Singapore Angioplasty Jordan Colombia Thailand Heart Valve Replacement India Colombia Jordan Hip Replacement India Jordan Colombia Hip Resurfacing India Jordan Colombia Knee Replacement India Jordan Colombia Spinal Fusion Mexico Jordan India Dental Implant Jordan India Mexico Lap Band Jordan Colombia India Breast Implants Colombia Jordan Costa Rica Rhinoplasty Colombia India Jordan Face Lift Jordan South Korea Colombia Hysterectomy Colombia Jordan SingaporeAlthough cost of travel or treatment isnt the first thing that comes to mind while seeking medicalcare, going abroad for an operation can be a harrowing experience if not organized correctly.With the right planning, it can be an incredibly positive experience. However, there are fewinhibitions pertaining to hygiene and infrastructure in third world countries. Some of these issuesare due to lack of knowledge about the foreign land and can be resolved through high qualitymedical or dental care offered by medical tourism agencies.Seeking medical care is never without concerns whether sought at home or overseas. However,through proper planning and preparation you can get around these concerns and enjoy a happy,safe and successful medical travel experience. Some common issues have been addressed below:
  3. 3. Difficult to Mange Things Directly: Often, patients cannot organize all the tasks themselveslike finding top quality hospital and arrange other things. It is always advisable to appoint amedical tourism facilitator specializing in finding top quality hospitals and providing valuableservices like detailed information about hospitals and surgeons, online medical records transfer,free surgery quote, pre- and post-consultation with the overseas hospital, medical and dental loanfinancing, immigration document services like passport and visa acquisition, airport pick-up anddrop-off, hospital escort, language translation, air tickets booking, travel insurance, hotelbooking, tourism services in the destination country, feedback and testimonials from previouspatients, and many more.Simplified information of medical services: Awareness of medical procedures, medico-legallaw and accreditation systems, pre-and postoperative arrangements are of utmost importance.This requires the medical tourism facilitators to have a basic understanding of the medicalsubject so that they can confidently explain their offered services with all the technical details,thereby providing better medical/healthcare experience. Tie ups with prominent doctors, expertsin various fields, leading hospitals and nursing homes are mandatory aspects of the medicaltourism agency. Unfamiliarity with the Overseas Provider: Travelers may feel lack of confidence in obtaining medical care in an unknown land with unfamiliar rules & regulations. This is a practical problem and has a logical solution too. Patients should spend some time and collect information like hospital profile, its accreditations and affiliations, facilities available, surgeon qualifications, ask for previous patient testimonials, and so on. Patient can contact some medical tourism facilitators to provide these details.Follow-up care in the Foreign Land: Aftercare is very important for a patient, especially whenone is in a foreign land, away from your family and friends. The advantage in new medicaltourism destination countries is that foreign patients can stay for longer duration in the hospitalwithout causing much financial burden. The patient can recover under the full supervision of thephysicians and medical staff and be in touch with the local surgeons after going back to hisnative country. It is always important to remain connected with local providers at home for anyfollow-up care needed.Physical Distance: The physical distance between the home country and host country, where thepatient is looking to avail medical services is very important as it is often difficult for the patientto take long flights after treatment. The practical solution is that the patient can choose adestination which is closer to his home country and secondly, travelers can keep some extrabudget for flights so that one may avail the comfort of business class travel, at least for the returnleg of the journey.Away from Family and Friends: Patients in foreign countries are also concerned about theabsence of family and friends at times when one needs them the most. It is always advisable to
  4. 4. plan a medical treatment trip with a companion. This will ensure that you feel comfortable in thecompany of your companion in the foreign country. Now days, it is possible to remain connectedback home through revolutional communication mediums such as internet, calling cards, videoconference and emails. In medical tourism countries, you can avail the service of personalattendant at a reasonable cost.Local Accommodation for Longer Treatment: In certain cases, the patients are required to stay for longer duration in the host country. In these cases, it is difficult to stay in a good hotel for longer stretch as it will burn a big hole in your pocket. The solution to this problem is staying in a service apartment, villa or homestay. It is not only economical but also ensures that the patient gets full comfort, individual care and privacy round the clock. It is possible to use the furnished kitchen to cook the food as per the patient‟s preference and requirement of the medical prescription. Also, once the patient has recovered fairly, some tripsmay be organized for upliftment of his spirits and complete recovery after seeking medicalconsultation.Weak or Malpractice Laws: Legal system in the emerging medical tourism destinationcountries is perhaps the black sheep in these developing countries leaving foreign patients withlittle or no legal help available in case of any medical problem. However, the best way tominimize this risk is to avail only high quality healthcare services and select healthcare serviceproviders only after checking the track records. So, if you have selected the right provider andsurgeon after thorough research, you will definitely get quality services.

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