by Joseph Gustaitis
You will also want to know as much as you can about the facilities you’re considering, beyond whether they are accredited. This means asking a lot of questions—about mortality rates, any malpractice suits, the English-speaking abilities of the physicians and staff, and the number of surgeries performed and the success rate. You’ll want to know where the doctor who will be treating you went to school, his or her credentials, how long he or she has been practicing, and the number of surgeries he or she has personally done. If you’re using an agency to help plan the trip, agency personnel should be able to help with this information. It’s also a good idea to ask for referrals so you can talk to other Americans who used the same physician. You might not always get all the answers you seek — that’s not easy even in a US hospital — but you’ll never know unless you ask. Hospitals that are serious about attracting and retaining foreign customers should be willing to address most inquiries.
Next, you should figure out how you are going to pay for the procedure. If you have insurance, you should check whether it covers your procedure and whether the coverage extends to medical care outside the United States. In addition, you should make sure that you will be able to get continuing care from your US doctor or elsewhere once you return home (and that the US doctor will get the information he or she needs to ensure that your follow-up care is appropriate). If you have insurance, will it pay for continuing care? Will it pay for any complications that may arise after the surgery? And you should know about what legal recourse, if any, you have in case the procedure is not successful. (Again, a good medical travel company should be able to provide you with this information.) Finally, you should be aware of any danger (such as blood clots) that long flights might pose to you postsurgery, as well as any risks involved in doing common vacation activities.
Two more quick pieces of advice: It can be very helpful to bring along a companion on your trip who can run errands while you are recuperating. Also, it is a good idea to let your bank know that you are traveling abroad in case you have to put a large amount on your credit card. You don’t want to risk its being rejected.
Deciding whether to travel to a foreign country in order to get medical care is a lot like buying almost anything else. You ask yourself, “If I purchase the less expensive item, will I get the same quality that I’d get if I paid more?” Of course, that decision is less critical when you’re buying a refrigerator than when you’re dealing with your health. In any case, it will probably be a decision more people make in the coming years. Does it make sense? There are many success stories, but, according to the AMA, “it is too early to conclude whether the risks of medical tourism outweigh the advantages.”
Last Reviewed on July 11, 2012
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