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What is Medical Tourism?

More and more people from the west are going to Asia to try medical tourism. You may be surprised to know that you can save much more and get more perks and advantages by getting treated far away from home. It is important that you only deal with reliable institutions too, so that you can ensure that operations stay safe and successful. Learn more about the process and find out the different benefits of going through one program.

A Brief Description

Medical tourism is described as the process of going to a different country to get medical treatment. Some of the common procedures done to traveling patients include dental work, heart surgery, plastic surgery and hip replacement. Based on the location and the type of procedure to be done, a medical trip can usually cost you anywhere between 10% and 50% of what you expect to pay in your own country.

The main advantage of medical tourism is that it provides a cheaper means to get the type of treatment done, even if you consider other expenses like hotel accommodations, air fare, car rental services, dining and shopping. These are cheaper than domestic health care because of a variety of factors. Expect to get the same standard treatment or even better with top quality institutions from other nations. Some of the most popular medical tourism stops include Singapore, Thailand, Argentina and the Philippines.

Undergoing Treatment

Patients can travel halfway across the globe to receive various types of health care, including alternative care, psychiatric treatment, convalescent care and even for burial. Customers and service or health care providers from the other country usually communicate through informal means, to hasten the process and avoid very strict legal oversight. More than 50 countries have been named as a medical tourism destination. Some of these consider medical tourism as a major industry and are creating better buildings, facilities, equipment, as well as researching newer technologies to stay updated.

It is important that you research more about the institution and country you are eyeing on, since there are also unscrupulous agencies offering seemingly quality services and care online. You should talk to the right people and also communicate with previous patients to get honest feedback on what to expect about your treatment and vacation.

Things to Expect

A medical tourism package usually includes all the other factors to ensure that you have a safe, successful and enjoyable trip. Patients will be given preliminary meetings and diagnostic procedures before the actual surgery or treatment. They will also be given time to explore and tour around the new country to get the most out of their vacation. Expect to stay anywhere between 3 and 10 days when going to another country.

Today, Asian countries are the most popular destinations, with more and more Americans traveling to the East each year. European countries like Hungary, Ireland and Belgium are also offering excellent medical services. You can include a few personal reasons to determine which destination will fit your situation best.


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The Groups Helping Medical Tourism

Since medical tourism is very much a part of health care, it is only important that you review the several questions and issues raised about the subject. There are now a variety of agencies that continues to observe the activities and practices all over the globe, to ensure that patients get the best and safest medical treatment available. You have to learn more about the agencies so you can make the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.

About the Groups

There are a number of factors to consider when going for medical tourism. Some of the inclusions are quality assurance, evidence-based practices and medications and international health care accreditation. In America, the Joint Commission International or JCI is the most well-known accreditation group. Since 1999, the group has been checking and accrediting health care institutions outside the United States. Several medical institutions at present find that being accredited by JCI helps them get the trust of many American patients.

The Joint Commission is connected with JCI in America. The two groups are independent private groups that do not function for profit. These groups try to develop internationally and nationally recognized standards and processes to boost patient safety and health care. These groups work with different hospitals to ensure that the health care organizations meet the standards of patient care.

More Groups

The Trent International Accreditation Scheme in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom is also considered an important agency when it comes to medical tourism. The schemes of accreditation groups can change in terms of cost, size, quality, skill and purpose. The cost to health care groups and hospitals can also change. A number of hospitals are aiming for dual international accreditation. JCI is responsible for attracting American patients, while Trent is good for attracting European clients.

Before you go for any medical group abroad, you have to check the background first and ask for a number of accreditations to make sure that you are only dealing with professionals who are well-trained and updated about the latest practices and technology. Not complying with this practice can lead to dangerous and life-threatening procedures.

Other Responsible Agencies

The Medical Tourism Association is a pioneer non-profit trade group for medical tourism. It is comprised of health care providers, international hospitals, insurance companies, medical travel advisers and other agencies that commit to providing patients with excellent health care globally. The three tenets of the agency are Communication, Education and Transparency.

The SOFIHA or Society for International Health Care Accreditation is another group that gives forums and discussions about standard practice and ideal patient care. The role of the group is to ensure that hospitals give the best environment for treating patients.

The UKAF or United Kingdom Accreditation Forum is another big network, comprised of accreditation groups with the objective of sharing new ideas and standard practice to help organizations implement standards safely and successfully. Some of the activities done by the network include training, evaluation, recuritment, monitoring and recognizing accreditation awards by different health institutions.


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Risks and Issues Around Medical Tourism

Medical tourism can cover a variety of practices and procedures. As much as you need to review the benefits and advantages, it is equally vital to learn about the possible risks and other issues about the trip. Some patients have suffered life-threatening conditions because of errors and lack of research. You have to know more about the potential risks before you consider going abroad for treatment. Here are some more tips and guidelines.

Knowing the Risks

Medical tourism also includes a number of risks, compared to getting health care from local sources. A number of countries experience sporadic infectious diseases once in a while. These include Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines. The diseases may not be present in other nations like the United States and European countries. Weakened individuals may be exposed to the problems, like malaria, HIV, avian flu, tuberculosis and typhoid. Some of these diseases are considered rare in first world countries.

The quality of care pre and post-operative can also differ, based on the country and medical institution. Some of the standards may be different from what you were accustomed to in America. Trent and JCI can ensure that you get the best standards of care in these countries. If you travel long distances after undergoing surgery, you can also boost the risk of developing other problems and complications. Some of the causes of complications include being cramped and staying immobile for a long period of time inside an airplane. It is vital that you include several days off after surgery before going back to your country to get better and recover faster.

Legalities

Some complaints that you can easily pass on in your country may not be as easy to deal with when traveling abroad. The policies and rules may change drastically thereby limiting patients’ abilities to get satisfactory results after any given procedure. If you get medical treatment overseas, you may be unfamiliar to some legalities and regulations. The limited regulations in some countries can explain the lower cost of health care. Some individuals have been victims of medical malpractice and inadequate care stemming from lack of equipment and tools, inexperienced doctors and incompetent programs. Some institutions and medical experts may not even afford some of the financial damages that come from lawsuits.

About Ethics

One problem that medical tourism may cause is that locals no longer can receive quality and standard care because hospitals and doctors are focusing more on foreign patients who can pay more and afford drastic procedures. Although foreigners may no longer have problems when it comes to paying and waiting, the locals will have to deal with the increased cost of care that local institutions are offering globally.

Pioneering modern technologies can also mean that some devices and medications are not yet fully proven to provide all the beneficial effects. It is not uncommon to see some foreign patients come back and experience very bad side effects after a few months, because of unconventional therapy and practices. Always research all the equipment you are going to use and the procedure you are planning to go through.


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More Countries to Visit for Your Medical Tour

There are about 50 countries you can choose from to get medical treatment. Some of these countries offer the best hospitals and treatments, while others also have very colorful culture and experiences to add. Whatever your choice may be, it is important that you learn more about the country to blend well with the locals and have the vacation of your life. Here are some more nations that decided to become globally competitive in medical tourism.

Thailand

Thailand is the number one choice of most medical tourists because of its wide range of medical expertise and the several available tourist hotspots all over the country. Medical tourism has significantly grown in Thailand in the past few years. A single hospital in 2005 admitted 150,000 foreign patients. Some of the procedures sought after by patients include cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, cosmetic surgery, organ transplant and dental work. Some other procedures include physical therapy, mental treatment and spa.

The cost of health care in Thailand is also very cheap. Expect to pay only 10% to 25% of what you are charged in the United States. Several hospitals also have interpreters so that patients can communicate better with doctors. Most hospitals have English-speaking staff too. Today, several hospitals in the nation are accredited by the International Organization for Standardization and JCI. Traveling to Thailand will expose you to a variety of world class resorts, restaurants and other popular sights and events.

European Choices

Even though Asian and South American countries are the most popular choices, Europe has also grown in medical tourism. There are so many European nations now offering medical tourism packages, such as Germany, Hungary, Malta, Spain, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Portugal, Poland and Lithuana. The Czech Republic primarily focuses on spas and health care that competes with the best in the world.

Germany is another top destination because of its state of the art equipment, very high standards and modern facilities. All citizens have health coverage. Waitlists are also considerably shorter in Germany and cost of treatment is 50% cheaper compared to America. Middle Eastern patients now prefer going to Germany instead of the United States because of the very strict regulations since the September 11, 2001 attack.

New Zealand and Mexico

New Zealand is new to the list of medical tourist hotspots. Several of the hospitals in New Zealand are accredited internationally. The cost of surgery is especially cheaper by around 80% compared to the United States. You also get to enjoy tranquil scenes and a very safe environment when vacationing this side of the world.

Mexico is a popular spot for Americans who live very near the border. The specialty treatments of the country are plastic surgery and dental work. The cost of care in Mexico is only 20% the cost you pay for in America. Medical tourists going to Mexico report that treatment and accommodations are very satisfactory. A lot of foreigners also go to Mexico each year to undergo lap band surgery and bariatric surgery to reduce weight.


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