Medical Travel: Research, research, research

Consumers are more informed today and have become financially savvy when it comes to making decisions regarding healthcare choices whether they’re domestic patients or medical tourists. Their expectations are higher for medical services and products received combined with convenience and products offered by their healthcare provider and healthcare facility, which in turn has created competition within the destination marketplace.

An informed Consumer who has researched a destination is prepared to travel for medical treatment or a surgical procedure reduces stress and anxiety, creates an opportunity for a pleasant experience at a time the Consumer, who effectively becomes a medical tourist at that point, requires healthcare services in a foreign country, in a foreign environment, surrounded by people they don’t know, speaking a foreign language.

Research is an important investment requiring time and patience as you, the Consumer, determine where you want to travel for your healthcare abroad. There are issues that can arise upon your arrival at your medical tourism destination for failure to research the destination itself, the healthcare professional and/or the hospital or clinic prior to leaving for treatment. The following can occur:

➢The destination is not what you imagined.
➢The hospital or clinic is not what you imagined as a healthcare facility;
➢The hospital or clinic was not prepared for your arrival when you arrived at your destination’s airport.
➢The hospital or clinic is quoting an exorbitant price for the treatment or procedure after your arrival and is different from the one quoted over the internet, by phone or email.
➢The physician or healthcare professional is not credentialed or board certified in the specialty for your particular treatment or procedure.
➢The physician or healthcare professional is unable to answer your questions, thoroughly or to your satisfaction, regarding your treatment or procedure.
➢You find your health insurance doesn't cover the treatment and/or procedure. (Most domestic health insurers don’t cover elective procedures or treatment abroad unless you have an international umbrella – it’s important to call your health insurer about coverage.)

Before traveling abroad, I would suggest you, the Consumer, conduct a broad search on medical tourism/travel destinations and research the following:

Where do you want to travel for your medical treatment or surgical procedure?
➢Is the destination known for this type of surgical procedure or medical treatment?
➢Is the destination safe?
➢Will the healthcare facility be responsible for your transportation to/from the airport?
➢How many Americans have gone to that particular destination for your procedure or treatment?
➢What else is there to do before/after the treatment or procedure?
➢Can your companion or family enjoy the destination while you recuperate?
➢Is the destination somewhere you feel comfortable traveling?

Healthcare Professional:
Once you’ve chosen the destination, conduct a thorough analysis and evaluation of the healthcare professional:
➢Who is the medical professional, physician or surgeon?
➢Where did they train?
➢Are they board certified in their area of specialty, i.e., Plastic Surgery, Orthopedic/Sports Medicine, Ophthalmology, Cardiology, General Surgery?
➢What additional training or certification do they have for the particular procedure or treatment?
➢How many procedures have they conducted?
➢What are their clinical outcomes, i.e. the results from the particular procedure you expect to have?

Healthcare Facility:
➢Is the hospital or clinic certified in the country and/or internationally accredited? As in the case of Mexico, the country adopted the U.S.’s hospital accrediting body, The Joint Commission’s hospital standards and protocols, legislating the standards and protocols as agreed upon with JC and Joint Commission International. There are currently on 9 JCI hospitals accredited in Mexico.
➢Does the facility have an International Patient Services Program which provides coordination for your arrival, lodging, physician consult appointment coordination, an interpreter (if necessary), pre-and post-recovery coordination, medical record file for return home, follow-up consults, etc.?
➢Are you prepared to pay in cash or do the hospital and physician accept credit cards for payment of healthcare services?
➢Does your current health insurance cover you abroad? (I’ll address this issue in another article soon)
➢Has the healthcare facility pre-screened you and has the physician accepted your case prior to your arrival?

As an informed Consumer, these are a few questions you should answer prior to boarding a plane to a healthcare destination as a medical tourist for medical treatment or surgical procedure. The more informed you are, the more likely, you’ll have a pleasant experience at the hospital or clinic with a qualified healthcare professional in a setting conducive to recuperation and rehabilitation. Should your family accompany you while you have your treatment or procedure, ensure they, too, will enjoy the destination as you recuperate.

Enjoy the experience as you research your medical travel destination. There are wonderful options out there. Make sure to take into account travel time, recuperation and rehabilitation, and most importantly, reduce anxiety by ensuring you will receive quality care while at the destination by doing your homework prior to boarding a plane.

Until next time, RM