What is medical tourism, and is it a good idea?

Medical tourism is the phrase used to describe all of the people who travel to foreign countries in order to receive medical treatments. Medical tourists usually travel so they can access medical care at a lower cost than what they would have to pay if they received the same treatments at home.

Aside from lower costs, there are other reasons why people take advantage of medical tourism:

  • Some therapies or procedures may only be available in other countries, so patients have no choice but to go abroad to get treatments that may be classified as experimental elsewhere.
  • Patients may want to receive medical care from a well-known and talented medical professional who works in another country.
  • Immigrants may opt to return to their home country when they need a procedure, simply because they feel more comfortable in an environment where they are surrounded by their native culture.
    Others opt to travel for medical treatments when they know that access to better technology elsewhere, or when they know that they can receive a necessary treatment sooner than they would at home.   
  • Medical tourism can give you faster access to the services you require. Many individuals who live in nations that provide public healthcare find that medical tourism gets them off the waiting list so their health won’t have to suffer as they wait. In other words, when time isn’t an option, medical tourism is.
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A few facts about medical tourism

Globally, medical tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry, and it is expected to keep growing. Researchers estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. alone who travel to another country every year for a medical procedure. Often, travellers go abroad for everything from cosmetic surgery, cardiac surgery, and dentistry, to fertility treatments, oncologic care, and orthopaedic surgery.
The majority of medical tourists will end up paying out-of-pocket for the care that they receive in another country, and they will also rely upon medical concierge services or private companies in order to locate the best health care facilities abroad.
As a result of the growth in medical tourism, there are some employers and insurers today who have developed relationships with hospitals in other countries in an effort to control the costs that are associated with health care. There are even large medical schools in the U.S. that have developed initiatives with providers overseas.

Why are some treatments so affordable abroad?

The primary reason that some procedures are cheaper overseas is due to the lower labour costs in countries where medical tourism is popular. Additionally, the price of certain medications, like anaesthesia, can be much higher in some countries than others.

Medical tourism checklist

If you decide that you are ready to take advantage of the benefits provided by medical tourism, such as decreased costs and high quality care in some of the most advanced facilities in the world, keep the following tips in mind. Doing so will ensure everything will go as smoothly as possible and you will receive the best care possible.

  1. Talk to a professional known as a travel medicine practitioner a minimum of four to six weeks prior to heading to another country for a health procedure. You can talk about general information that will help minimise your risks and ensure safe travel to and from your destination.
  2. Also talk to your doctor about your current medical conditions. Make sure that they are all under control. Let your doctor know about your travel plans so that he or she can properly advise you on what to do and what to avoid. Prior to your trip, set up an appointment for one final check-up to be sure you are healthy enough to head off.  
  3. Ask your doctor for copies of your medical history. Take your medical records with you, including any tests and lab work related to your condition. Also bring a list of any allergies that you suffer from so you can avoid complications. And don’t forget to bring a copy of all of the medications and supplements that you take. Include the brand names or generic names of your medications, as well as the dosages and manufacturers of your prescriptions. If you’re going to be travelling to a country where the medical professionals don’t speak or read English, you can have the documents translated. Then you can pack copies in both English and the foreign language to cover all of your bases.
  4. Always keep in mind that health care facilities and medical professionals in other countries will be following different standards from those you are used to dealing with at home. Make it a point to analyse the qualifications for any providers that you are planning on using, and look for the credentials of any medical facility where you will be receiving treatments. Accrediting groups include the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, DNV International Accreditation for Hospitals, and the Joint Commission International.
  5. Have a contract written up that defines the treatments, care, and supplies that will be covered by all of the costs that you will incur during your trip. This agreement should be drawn up with your health care facility or with the group that is arranging your medical journey.
  6. If you do not speak the language of the country where your medical treatments will be performed and your doctors and nurses don’t speak English, arrange for someone to communicate on your behalf.
  7. Make sure you are aware of any activities, such as swimming, consuming alcohol, sunbathing, and exercising, that are not recommended following your procedure.
  8. Ask for copies of your medical records prior to returning home. Then make another appointment with your doctor as a follow-up to the care that you received while you were in another country.
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Is medical tourism right for you?

Medical tourism is something that can allow you to get the medical treatment you need when you need it, and at a more affordable price. With careful planning and preparation, you can save thousands while getting the treatments you need so you can start feeling better sooner.

By seeking out medical care options abroad, you can put your health in the very best hands. Medical tourism helps you take control, and it gives you the opportunity to access the most talented and qualified doctors in the most medically advanced facilities in the world.

IMPORTANT: The contents of this blog do not constitute financial advice and are provided for general information purposes only without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any particular person. OzForex Limited (trading as OFX) and its affiliated entities make no recommendation as to the merits of any financial strategy or product referred to in the blog. OFX makes no warranty, express or implied, concerning the suitability, completeness, quality or exactness of the information and models provided in this blog.