As the U.S. medical-cost crisis deepens, more patients are leaving the country for elective surgical procedures, with Thailand, India, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico and Cuba becoming the most popular medical destinations.
Beyond cosmetic surgery, these procedures range from the simple to the complex and include everything from dental implants, cataract removal and knee replacements to cardiac, orthopedic and ophthalmic surgery, neurosurgery, infertility treatment and organ and bone marrow transplants.
The benefits of outsourcing surgical procedures are clear. The total cost — including airfare, surgery, hospital and hotel recovery stays — is often one-tenth to one-third the cost of the same procedure in the United States. And the short waiting time for scheduling and completing elective surgery abroad appeals to many patients in Canada, England and the United States who are tired of the long waits and insurance approval requirements for elective surgery at home.
Health insurance companies are taking note of this trend, and several are starting to offer coverage for foreign procedures, citing economic value, shorter wait times, highly trained medical staff and more personalized care. But there are risks, and patients need to do their homework before taking advantage of this alternative.
To cater to an international clientele, many private hospitals abroad are applying for accreditation from the Joint Commission International, the global arm of the institution that accredits U.S. hospitals and ensures minimum standards for patient care quality. Some foreign hospitals have also affiliated with leading U.S. medical care institutions such as Johns Hopkins International, Harvard Medical International and the Cleveland Clinic. Many foreign hospitals employ physicians with U.S. training and certification.
Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, which earned JCI accreditation in 2002, is attracting a growing number of American patients — so many, in fact, that it will expand its capacity by 20 percent by 2012 and is building alliances with American insurers to cover the costs of medical travel for their members.
India has a large pool of doctors (approximately 600,000), nurses and paramedics with the required specialization, accreditation and expertise to perform a variety of complicated surgeries. Many speak English fluently. India’s private hospitals have gained international recognition for state-of-the-art facilities and diagnostic centers. The treatment of cardiac disease has become a specialty with healthcare centers such as Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Apollo Hospitals India. Leading cardiologists and cardiac thoracic surgeons use the latest technology to provide thorough care from basic services such as coronary angioplasty to the most complicated robotic cardiac surgery.
Nonetheless, like many developing countries, India has some challenges to overcome — such as improving its roads, sanitation, power back-up supply, guest housing and public utility services — to become a premier medical tourist destination. Patients need to consider if a member of the healthcare team lives in an area with unhygienic conditions and could possibly bring infections or illness to the hospital.
In many cases, post-operative care is nearly as important as the surgery itself. Physicians caution against flying for at least seven to 10 days after minor procedures and at least 10 to 14 days after major surgery. If you’re planning a transcontinental or international flight, the amount of time may increase depending on your condition and recovery.
Since it can be difficult to get post-operative care at home after having surgery abroad, a few medical tourism organizations refer their patients to U.S. physicians in the patient’s home area who will perform follow-up care. Some insurance companies are also paying for a companion to be with the patient to assist in recovery and act as a patient advocate abroad.
Medical travelers need to consider the consequences if something goes wrong or they suffer complications after surgery. Patients treated in the United States have legal recourse for medical malpractice, but overseas medical facilities are not under U.S. legal jurisdiction. It is unclear who is responsible if something goes wrong when someone travels abroad for medical care.
Patients can coordinate their treatment through medical travel intermediaries, many of which use the Internet to recruit patients. These services work like specialized travel agents, investigating healthcare providers and assessing patients’ physical ability to travel. Some intermediaries are affiliated with specific medical providers and send patients exclusively to those providers. Intermediaries often have doctors and nurses on staff to assess medical appropriateness of the procedures and help patients select physicians and hospitals.
Before You Check In
• Check credentials.
• Select qualified, trained, properly certified surgeon and anesthesiologist.
• Select accredited facilities.
• Check for availability of English-speaking translators 24/7.
• Check quality of follow-up care and monitoring abroad.
• Arrange for adequate recovery time before flying.
• Arrange for follow-up care at home.
• Be informed of patient rights and legal recourse.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Alaska Airlines recently debuted its new Pixar-inspired, special-edition aircraft livery. On both sides of the Pixar-themed Boeing 737-800 aircraft, travelers spot recognizable faces from the Toy Story franchise, including Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Jessie. Rex the Tyrannosaurus appears on the boarding door and the little green aliens show up on the aircraft’s winglets.
Chef Philip Guardione used to spend his days and nights on Manhattan’s Prince and Spring streets, where his popular restaurants Piccola Cucina Enoteca and Piccola Cucina Osteria attract locals and tourists who love his Sicilian-inspired cuisine as well as the street scene in the vibrant SoHo neighborhood.
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city of Greece and the most important center of the area. Built near the sea, elegant and refined, the Greek “Lady of the North” is a modern, vivacious city that welcomes visitors eager to learn about its history and culture, and at the same time have fun, relax, go shopping or simply explore the cityscape by the sea.
The New InterContinental San Juan is officially reopening next month. The opening marks the completion of the property’s first major renovation in more than 20 years.
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok completed renovations on its River Wing, concluding the hotel’s most extensive renovations in nearly 150 years. The River Wing redesign followed restorations of the hotel’s Authors’ and Garden wings. Newly renovated guestrooms and suites feature updated facilities, but maintain the hotel’s signature Thai elegance. The renovations also increased the number of suites in the wing, as well as enlarged guestrooms with views of the Chao Phraya River.
Get to know Mexico with ONE FREE NIGHT With Fiesta Americana Get to know Mexico with the largest hotel company in the country, offering more than 185 options in the best city and resort destinations. Book at any of our hotels with the best available rate at the time of booking and get one night free.