Travel Clinics of America is your best choice for receiving high-quality pre-travel care, sound travel advice, and peace of mind.
Medical tourism is becoming a more common reason for Americans to travel abroad. Although the term ‘tourism’ suggests leisure travel, medical tourists are traveling abroad to receive elective medical and cosmetic surgeries. The motivation for medical travel is the lower cost of medical care abroad.
Before You Travel
Do your homework. Make sure that the facility and the physicians who will be caring for you are highly qualified. Find out if the institution itself has been accredited by international accrediting organizations. Request references and contact them. If you are having surgery, then you are entitled to know where the surgeon trained and his/her qualifications to perform the desired operation. If you are having a heart bypass operation, for example, verify that this physician operates on a high volume of bypass patients every year, so that his skills are sharp. What is the surgeon’s complication rate? Is the facility a teaching hospital? Will physicians-in-training be participating in your care? While you may be agreeable to this, it is best to know this in advance. In addition, if you have other active medical issues, you will want to ensure that there are well-trained specialists available. Remember, the post-op care and treatment are as important as what occurs in the operating room.
Complete your due diligence methodically. It will take more time and research to arrange for capable foreign medical care than it would for domestic medical treatment. We take it for granted here that transfused blood is safe and that surgical instruments are sterile. Hepatitis B vaccine, required of physicians here, may not be standard practice abroad.
Get Travel Vaccinations
Just like any international traveler, you and those accompanying you, are at risk for a host of infectious diseases. Depending upon your destination, these may include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, yellow fever and typhoid
- Schedule an appointment with a Travel Clinics of America physician as soon as your medical plans are finalized. The travel physician will update your routine immunizations (shots).
- Additional recommended travel vaccinations will depend on your age, health status, destination, itinerary, and length of stay. Yellow fever vaccine, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines, typhoid, and Japanese Encephalitis are some of the vaccines that may be recommended.
- If you are traveling to a malaria-endemic area, you will need prophylactic medication.
- Family and others traveling with you may need vaccinations also.
- You will be advised on making safe food and beverage choices to minimize the risk of traveler’s diarrhea.
During the Flight
- Medical tourists may take long plane rides to their destinations. In addition to jet lag, air travelers are at risk for developing serious blood clots. Here are some tips to prevent them.
Medical Tourist Caveats
- Make sure that you know your financial obligations in advance. If you develop medical complications, is the cost of treatment included in the original fee? When is payment for your care required? You might be wary to pay in advance for obvious reasons. The institution may be unwilling to bill you later, as it would be challenging for them to collect a bill when you are thousands of miles away. You may be able to negotiate this issue.
- If you develop a medical complication after returning home, who pays for the treatment?
- You may be eligible for coverage by your insurance company who will look favorably on the prospect of cost saving associated with overseas care.
- Can your visitors be accommodated near the hospital?
- Can you request to change physicians at any point during your care?
- You will be more comfortable if the medical personnel have a good command of English.
- You may have very limited legal recourse against medical negligence.
- Consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance, just in case you or your family want you urgently brought home for continued medical care.