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"Medical Tourism" Is It Worth The Risks For Your Health And Peace Of Mind?

There are a number of valid concerns regarding medical tourism that should be addressed before medical and procedure as well as travel plans are put into place.

In many cases the reasons for choosing medical tourism and having a medical or surgical assessment or procedure done outside your home catchments area involve questions of cost and economy. In other cases it’s to get the procedure done more rapidly (to jump the queue). In the cases of a business person they can often more than justify costs spent in terms of return on their income - not being disabled or inconvenienced by a surgically repairable illness or to linger with a given medical condition. In other cases the procedure may be done away from home for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.

Remember that in the end it’s your health and life that is on the line. Unless standards and what one might call” workmanship"- in both technical expertise of the medical staff - including doctors, specialists, nursing and hospital staff etc, is not up to "snuff" , then the whole exercise will be a wasted effort, false economy. Potentially it can even be a tragic or even lethal result for yourself or members of your family.

First of all remember that traveling abroad to get medical care goes both ways. The door swings in both manners. When among the most wealthy in the world, say for example oil sheiks, need medical care, the choice, more often than not, are prestigious American medical and hospital facilities such as the Mayo Clinic or Rochester Minnesota, or John Hopkins in Baltimore Maryland. The United States and its medical system is a very common and standard destination for people of means and wealth who seek what they perceive and regard as the very best care in the world for particular health problems and concerns. Indeed for these people of wealth and/or power, money is of no object - it’s the highest level of health care that they seek.

Medical tourism is not new. While the term "medical tourism” may be of recent origin the whole idea of traveling abroad to seek less expensive or more rapidly available medical care is not. Some can even trace the original concepts and practices of what we now regard with the standard term of "medical tourism" all the way back in history to the ancient Greeks.

It all sounds great. Medical tourism seems on the surface to be a win-win situation for those patients and customers who wish to avail themselves of these services. The patient gets served and serviced. They get their medical needs taken of at less cost, or quicker. In the process they both save money, have their procedures completed. On top of that they may have a "free" enjoyable vacation and may reside in hospitals with decor, food and service levels akin to that of a 5 star hotel.

However a basic rule of life is that “You get what you pay for”. In addition it can be stated that “Nothing is for nothing”. There are a number of factors to be considered and pondered on the “other side of the coin”.

Less regulatory oversight is often the reason that care costs less in these other countries, away from the watchful eyes of American regulatory and administrative processes and people. As an example consider that a plastic surgeon member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery must be board certified and operate as well in an accredited facility. Accreditation organizations set standards for everything from equipment used, to laboratory tests and staffing levels as well as staff qualifications. Nurses and doctors must have regularly updated certification in Advanced Life Support. Even the hospital facilities must be accredited by third parties on a regular an ongoing basis. There are quiet unassuming programs running in the background in your local American health facility that you are not aware of. Infection control is one example. In a foreign hospital you may very well be exposed to new and varied bacterial and other bugs that are not run of the mill back home. You may acquire one of these as a “nosocomial “or less commonly referred to as hospital acquired infection. Worse yet when you arrive back home the bargain may be that this is not a standard bug that your local medical staff is familiar with. More additional cost yet again. Of course there are varied concerns that we take for granted in our “western world”. Clean and treated water supplies, sanitation facilities as well as food preparation and safety standards may not be the same as ‘back home”.

Language issues can be another area of concern and interest. Like a joke being translated into another language the translation of symptoms that a person sufferer is never the same from one language to another. Even if you are able to describe your symptoms in your own language exactly it may be difficult getting the point across exactly. Even if trained in a second language, such as English, getting your exact point across to a staff member or a staff member late at night may present issues and exacerbations. After all when translated back into the original language of the receiving person it’s like playing a game of “telephone”.

Lastly in considering cost saving and figuring out that you will get a “free vacation” and holiday as part of the mix you should consider your situation after your medical procedure or surgery. Most likely you will need time to convalesce and recover. You are not exactly going to be in the best shape and mental condition to travel extensively, eat local food and beverages or take up beach type activities such as sunbathing, volleyball or para-sailing.

In the end considerations of the choice of medical tourism must be weighed and evaluated. It is not unlike a purchase on eBay – where in considerations of cost you must ask yourself “What is the final cost for this product to arrive at my door” and “Was it worth the additional risk as opposed to buying from a local merchant such as Wal-mart?”

In the same manner with choices of medical tourism for your medical health you must ask yourself “What are the final total costs?”, “What are the savings” and “Is it worth the risks and all the trouble involved?”

Submitted by:

Maggie Z. Mathews

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