Healthcare news has dominated headlines over the past few years. Legislative gridlock, coverage nuances and access to services have been hotly debated. As a result, medical tourism is becoming a common solution to different healthcare needs.
In general terms, the trend involves patients seeking specialized or affordable medical care overseas. Medical travel is a booming industry and countries are gearing services to court foreign patients.
Indian hospitals tout English speaking doctors and cardiology expertise to patients needing heart surgery on a budget. Medical tourism is growing across North America. Privately insured Americans are flocking to Mexico for more affordable dental care and weight loss surgeries. Nationally insured Canadians may seek faster treatment for serious conditions from overseas hospitals.
Are you considering medical care abroad in 2014?
Here are some things to consider and potential destinations:
JCI and Accreditation Canada Hospitals:
Based in America, Joint Commission International (JCI) accredits foreign hospitals according to American standards. Accreditation Canada (AC) is a similar organization.
The accreditation process reviews the clinical care and management practices of international hospitals. A JCI or AC accreditation may factor into the decisions of western travelers when choosing hospitals.
Countries with high numbers of JCI Hospitals include: Thailand, Mexico, India, Germany and Costa Rica. Each country has particular strengths that should be considered.
Review Insurance Options:
Insurance companies and government healthcare alike have realized the cost benefits of overseas medical care. The JCI or AC designations have also helped insurers gain more comfort in the quality of clinical care overseas.
What is covered?
Since healthcare laws and coverage are dynamic, travelers should ensure their insurance options are understood. A procedure that was not covered a year ago may now be under your plan’s umbrella.
Medical Tourism Insurance:
Private insurance for medical tourism may be advised. The policies vary, so be sure to fully understand what is covered. Short term coverage for medical complications and general travel is available.
Know Country Specific Requirements for Medical Tourism:
Aside from locating medical care, you should learn what is needed to secure entry as a medical tourist.
Some countries may require special visas for medical tourists. Consider the barriers to entry when considering medical procedures overseas. In many cases, proof of funds will be required before entering as a medical tourist. Your trip will run smoothly by knowing what paperwork is needed and preparing.
Much like travel agents, medical facilitators can help handle the paperwork needed for medical travel. Hiring help for the documentation may be worthwhile, especially for those expecting extended stays.
Focus on Safety and Understand Risks:
High levels of malpractice insurance spike the cost of medical care in Canada and the United States. Patients in foreign hospitals have lessor ethical issues, which results in lower liability costs for doctors. Travelers should understand the country’s legal environment and hospital reputation.
Travelling overseas often entails immunizations. The level of exposure to infectious diseases varies greatly by region. Travelers must be aware of malaria, typhoid and other risks, depending on their destination. Review your medical history and comfort level with these factors.
Consider the Total Cost:
Going abroad for medical care is often best suited for basic treatments with minimal recovery times. Travelers must factor in expenses aside from the medical services.
More serious procedures require longer follow up care that delays return travel. This will raise the cost of clinical services and increase lodging costs for family.
Maximize Your Cultural Comfort:
Countries with large English speaking populations can enhance communication to make your trip easier. Nations with a higher percentage of Western trained doctors may also be appealing. A doctor who studied in North America may have a bedside manner that aligns more with Western patients.
Skyrocketing medical costs and coverage gaps bode well for more growth in medical tourism. By reviewing options with a broad perspective, you can make an informed healthcare decision.
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