Should You Travel for Medical Care?
Medical tourism is a viable healthcare solution for some, but not for everyone
Cautions Against Medical Travel:
- Long flights may be dangerous for those at risk of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
- Virtually no chance of winning a malpractice lawsuit abroad1
- Not all foreign hospitals or clinics are as modern or well-equipped as those at home
- Foreign country means foreign language, foreign culture, and foreign bacteria
Quotes From Happy Medical Travelers:
“Life is too precious. I’m in my early 50s and I have lots of things to do in my life and one of them isn’t lying at home in pain... I’m a Victoria firefighter. I have been for 29 years and I don’t want to retire that way, you know, with a disability”2
“I think it’s the best money I’ve ever spent"2
(with regard to having paid out-of-pocket for surgery in India)
More medical travel patient experiences can be found at Patients Beyond Borders
These days, there are first-rate medical facilities all over the world. The Joint Commission, the agency responsible for accrediting medical facilities in the USA, now accredits hundreds of medical facilities outside of the United States, assisting medical travelers in finding healthcare facilities that are comparable to American standards of care. Some of these facilities boast success rates of over 99% for complex cardiac procedures,3 making it hard to imagine that a US or European center could offer better care.
Nonetheless, medical travel is not appropriate for all people and conditions. Any decisions regarding medical travel should not be taken lightly. The UK's National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has released an excellent and thorough discussion of the potential risks in medical travel.
The world is full of innovative medical facilities and talented doctors, both near and far. It's up to everyone to decide whether medical travel is right for them.
Common Reasons for Medical Travel
|Why Travel?||Who Does This?||Where Do They Go?|
|Receive care that is not covered by insurance or otherwise not affordable at home||US Americans||Asia and Latin America|
|Receive care sooner than they would on the waiting list on a nationalized health plan||Canadians, Western Europeans||Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America|
|Receive cutting-edge treatment from a world-renowned specialist doctor or hospital||Various||Various|
|Receive treatment that is illegal or otherwise unavailable in home country (ex: fertility, stem cell, etc)||Various||Various|
1. Woodman J. Patients beyond borders: Everybody's guide to affordable, world-class medical travel. Healthy Travel Media; 2009 Jul 1.
2. Crooks, V.A., Kingsbury, P., Snyder, J. and Johnston, R., 2010. What is known about the patient's experience of medical tourism? A scoping review. BMC Health Services Research, 10(1), p.1.
3. Bennie, R., 2014. Medical Tourism: A Look at How Medical Outsourcing Can Reshape Health Care. Tex. Int'l LJ, 49, p.583.