Medical travel, also known as medical tourism, is the increasingly common practice of travelling abroad to receive medical care. The main reason patients are now crossing international borders for health care is to make a saving against treatment in their home countries or to eliminate waiting for treatment through overloaded national health care systems.
Today, millions of patients travel internationally each year to receive complex surgeries such as heart valve replacement surgery, hip replacement surgery and heart bypass surgery as well as elective procedures such as laser teeth whitening, face lifts and spa therapies.
Among the world’s most popular medical travel destinations are Thailand, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Costa Rica, Cuba and Columbia, while Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina are growing leaders in cosmetic medical travel, and Mexico and Costa Rica are booming dental tourism destinations for mostly US patients.
Providers of medical travel typically offer all inclusive packages that include the cost of treatment, accommodation and flights, and they make all arrangements for the patient including hospital appointments, aftercare and even sightseeing tours. Usually the details are finalized in the patient’s home country and then the patient is met in the country of treatment upon arrival by a representative, who will then help them with any further arrangements thereafter.
Medical travel savings made against treatment costs in the patient’s home country can be great, even when the price of travel and accommodation is included. For example, a heart valve replacement that would cost US$200,000 in the US can be carried out in India for US$10,000. Saving like these mean medical tourists can often enjoy a luxurious holiday after treatment before returning home.
Patients who are going to undertake medical travel should ensure the doctor carrying out the procedure meets regulatory standards as well as the hospital or clinic they will be having treatment at. Different systems of hospital accreditation means quality of treatment can vary widely across the globe and it’s important to seek out a facility that meets international standards, as options for recourse in the event of malpractice can be complicated in some countries.