Medical Tourism is a growing concept worldwide where people travel to another country for medical treatment at much lower prices or to enjoy a change of vacation along with their treatment. Typically, medical tourism involves residents of developed countries, such as the United States, seeking medical treatments in developing countries at a fraction of what it would cost in their home country. Residents of countries with national health care schemes – such as Canada and Great Britain – sometimes travel overseas to avoid the long waiting times such schemes inevitably bring. The most popular treatments sought are still cosmetic in nature, and not covered by insurance. However couples are increasingly seeking fertility treatments abroad. Others have sought more sophisticated surgery – such as cardiology treatments – overseas.

Possible Benefits of Medical Tourism

  • Most obvious benefit is lower cost of treatment.
  • Most travelers incorporate a short holiday along with the treatment as these also tend to be cheaper than vacations in their home country.
  • Medical tourists sometimes can avail themselves to the best doctors and hospitals of a foreign country. The hospitals/clinics in medical tourist destinations may also be credentialed in first world countries and doctors are sometimes graduates or American or first-world medical schools.
  • Medical tourism also gives people a chance to incorporate ayurvedic and relaxation therapies with their ongoing treatments at a low cost.

The most favorite medical tourism destinations worldwide currently are:

  • India : Specially for heart surgery, hip resurfacing, cosmetic surgery and high end surgeries. English as a primary language is also an advantage.
  • Singapore : Has highly accredited hospitals and a very high quality infrastructure
  • Thailand : Low labour costs resulting in lower treatment costs
  • Hong Kong : High quality infrastructure and good quality doctors
  • and more recently, Mexico, Brazil, Brunei, Cuba, Malaysia, Philippines and the United Arab Emirates

Important Considerations
Be sure you are allowing enough time in your travel to receive follow up care. You may need to stay days or weeks beyond the date of the medical procedure itself. Be realistic about the finances of medical tourism. Sure the medical treatment itself may be cheap. But when you add on airfare, hotels, taxis, restaurants — all in an unfamiliar city — the actual cost may be close to what you would pay at home.

Next, involve your home doctor in your plans! Having major surgery in a faraway country is not a decision you should take lightly. Research – what sort of questions should you ask your doctor about this procedure? How is the procedure typically peformed, and will it be done this way where you travel? Who credentials doctors and hospitals in your destination country, and what credentials do your intended providers have? You should also determine what level of follow up care your procedure may require – in the days, weeks, and even years after the procedure. Who will provide this follow up care?

Consider the languages you speak and what is spoken in your country. In some countries, such as Singapore, India, the Philippines and South Africa, most educated people speak English. This can be an important consideration.

Lastly confirm, and double confirm, your plans. How can you contact family members while abroad? Do you need a special visa or proof of ability to afford treatment in order to enter your another country?

Stay Safe
In the past, some discredited or bogus doctors set up shop outside US borders to promote dubious or dangerous treatments or outright scams (alleged cures for cancer, lengthening body parts, etc.) Medical tourism today is far removed from these scammers but one must still be vigilant. At the very least, see a trusted doctor in your home country and discuss your plans for overseas treatment.

Reputation counts in medical treatment overseas. Look for top quality hospitals and clinics with well known doctors.

Realize that, should a worst-case scenario occur, your legal avenues for making a malpractice claim or filing a lawsuit will be greatly reduced and often nonexistant. Freedom from frivilous lawsuits and huge insurance premiums are one reason why some doctors choose to practice overseas and can offer low cost treatments. On the other hand, this type of legal environment makes seeking doctors of good reputation all the more important.