Medical tourism offers healthy savings
Unless you're looking for a cosmetic
surgeon, Schult recommends choosing the hospital first and then picking the surgeon.
The hospital should be accredited by the U.S.-based Joint
Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). The JCAHO
sets health care standards in America, but hospitals in other countries are getting
this accreditation to appeal to U.S. patients who want reassurance that the hospital
has high standards.
Going through an agency
The growth in medical tourism has spawned agencies that help you choose a surgeon
or dentist. Depending on the agency, they offer services such as handling all
of your travel details, including airline reservations and ground transportation,
once you reach your destination. They also handle accommodations for your recovery
period and for your hotel stay -- often at five-star hotels at amazingly low rates.
"Part of what we've done is standardize and formalize
the process so the individual is taken care of from start to finish," says
Worried about culture shock? Many agencies also
provide a service to help clients navigate the unfamiliar culture. GlobalChoice
Healthcare provides a concierge service. MedRetreat
offers a similar service. Medical
Tourist Alert provides a guide to medical tourism companies, countries and
A vacation that isn't
Beware the hard sell that emphasizes destination over the quality of care. Unless
you're getting minor cosmetic dental work, you're not going to be sipping Margaritas
on the beach.
"This is medical tourism, not a vacation,"
Sulger says. "It's easy to see a Web site with palm trees and think you're
going to paradise. You don't go swimming after a tummy tuck. We help our clients
get a clear picture of what they're doing and what to expect."
you're working with an agency that talks about the beach more than the qualifications
of your doctor, you might think about changing agencies.
patients are on pain medication or even throwing up after surgery," says
Dr. John Corey, a board-certified aesthetic surgeon who practices in Scottsdale,
Ariz. "As their doctor, you don't want them to go anywhere. With a tummy
tuck, for instance, a patient may be bent over for five days."
you'd like to take advantage of things to do in the area, arrive a few days before
your surgery to enjoy the "vacation" part of your trip.
also want to keep your schedule free for a few days after your departure date.
If your surgeon says you're not ready to travel on your scheduled departure time,
you simply can't leave.
Problems happen here in the United States and they can happen overseas.
you go to India and your knee replacement doesn't work -- and sometimes it won't
-- you can go back to India and get it redone or stay here in the U.S," says
Erickson. "If you need to sue, you can do that in India. It's the same thing
in the U.S.; you're on your own in the U.S. too."
most countries, litigation is a possibility but malpractice laws vary. Most
surgeons will work with you if you're not satisfied. It's in the surgeon's best
interest to make you happy, says Marsek.
can sometimes be difficult," warns Corey. Not all U.S. doctors are going
to want to take on a patient who had surgery in another country. And although
the average stay, according to Marsek, is 17 days, you're likely to need a few
follow-up appointments after you return.