The Risks of Medical Tourism: What International Patients Need to Know
Nowadays, more than 14 million patients seek medical treatment, diagnosis, or clarification of their health conditions abroad. It is often the only option for patients deemed “hopeless” by domestic doctors. However, traveling for medical purposes also has its associated risks. We will discuss these risks and guide you to help you make an informed decision and prevent mistakes when selecting a hospital or doctor abroad.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Tourism
The main advantages of treatment in certified hospitals abroad:
- The JCI accredits renowned hospitals that meet international quality standards, ensuring they provide top-notch healthcare services.
- Diagnosis accuracy. The top hospitals conduct extensive research utilizing advanced techniques such as body scans for PET-CT, endoscopic methods, and specialized tests incorporating artificial intelligence systems.
- Doctors qualification. Hospitals abroad have top-notch doctors who are highly trained and have completed internships at prestigious educational institutions worldwide. Every year, thousands of people seek out these doctors to treat epilepsy, cardiovascular issues, and congenital disabilities.
- Access to innovative technologies. Doctors in Spain, Germany, and Czechia are developing experimental methods for diagnosing and treating rare and complex diseases. Their patients are the first to get access to the latest equipment, robotic interventions, unique drugs, cell therapy, etc.
- Non-surgical radiosurgery. Advanced clinics successfully treat malignant and benign tumors using TruBim, Cyber, and Gamma Knife devices.
Medical tourism can be expensive, especially in countries like the US and Canada. Some countries may require a visa, and the language barrier can also create challenges for those seeking medical treatment abroad. These are essential factors to consider before embarking on a medical tourism journey.
Researching Potential Medical Tourism Destinations
The most popular medical tourism destinations are Germany and Israel, with Czechia, Austria, Poland, and Spain following closely behind. Patients who can afford high-quality medical care prefer:
- Germany for its renowned precision and excellent service. Despite this, many Germans seek medical treatment in neighboring Czechia, Hungary, or Poland to save money.
- Spain is famous for its expertise in transplantology and advanced treatments for oncology, gynecological, and neurological illnesses.
- Czechia has proved that high-quality medical care in Europe can be quite financially affordable.
Financial Issues for International Medical Tourists
When considering treatment abroad, there are multiple expenses to consider, which include:
- Expenses for diagnosis and preparation of a treatment plan.
- The actual cost of the medical or surgical treatment.
- Patient accommodation, meals, flights, and necessary documentation preparation expenses.
- Additional expenses for interpreter services, accompanying persons, etc.
Medical prices in the US are considerably higher than those in Europe. However, medical services in Israel and Turkey are priced much lower than in Europe while maintaining high quality.
Preparing for Your Medical Trip
If you decide to organize treatment abroad yourself, then you will have to go through several stages:
- Selecting a clinic. Look for a country where the medical field is well-regulated by the government and the clinic holds an international JCI certification.
- If you're planning a trip and need to see a doctor, choose a few clinics. Contact them and ask about the required documents, such as previous medical exam results, the doctor's availability, and the length of your stay in the country.
- Organizational aspects. Collect the documents, translate them into the chosen country's language, think over logistics, and find an interpreter.
- Treatment and rehabilitation. Once the therapy course is complete, scheduling remote consultations with your doctor when you return home is essential. Make sure to request the translation of all documents into your native language so that your local doctors can monitor your health.
Being Prepared for the Unexpected While Abroad
Medical tourism is affected by varying laws across different countries. Some procedures allowed in one country may be prohibited in another, leading to ethical dilemmas. It is particularly true for transplantology, which is perceived differently in different places.
Risks associated with medical tourism may include:
- Climate change. It's important to warn patients receiving medical treatment abroad about the potential effects of climate change on their health. For instance, insulin absorption may be much faster in hot countries, and immunity levels can decrease.
- Exotic food. It can have an unpredictable effect on the body, forcing tourists to “get off the track.” It is also necessary to consider the hypoglycemic properties of exotic plants, the spectrum of which varies in different countries.
- The risk of infectious diseases. It is no coincidence that entry into many countries, especially exotic ones, is allowed only after strictly prescribed vaccination.
- Transportation after receiving medical care. For example, long-term air travel naturally increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
- The human factor. There should be no language barrier between the patient and his attending physician. Any question the patient asks should be interpreted correctly, and a detailed answer should be received, excluding ambiguous interpretations.
Post-Medical Tourism Care and Long-Term Outcomes
Patients who undergo therapeutic or surgical procedures are often required to undergo follow-up tests and analysis, which their attending physician will review. Extending the visa is necessary if the treatment period takes longer than planned. There are intermediary companies that offer post-treatment care, and they have the necessary diagnostic tools and services. The attending physician will receive the test results, so the patient won't have to make a second visit to the clinic.
Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Medical Travel Provider
Navigating the world of medical tourism can be quite challenging. Patients may overlook important details when considering various options. As a result, many people seeking treatment abroad rely on specialized companies organizing such trips. This way, patients receive support in selecting a clinic and a doctor. Medical travel providers take on all the routine work and find a hospital with the best price-quality ratio for the patient since they know the international medical market.
Below are a few key issues to pay attention to when choosing a provider in medical tourism:
- Most companies will need one or more licenses to start their business legally. Do not hesitate to ask for a copy of the business license.
- Information about its owner/management and staff. Trustworthy companies make this information easily accessible to patients, providing them with a clear understanding of what to anticipate.
- Facilitators may receive commissions from hospitals or charge patients directly. Facilitators need to be transparent about their reimbursement process to build trust and encourage patients to use their services for medical travel.
- Patient reviews. Every company wants to highlight its past successes and reviews of previous patients' experiences to attract more customers and expand business opportunities.
For several years, AiroMedical has been aiding patients in resolving various medical issues. Our services include coordinating healthcare treatments abroad, and we work with reputable hospitals across 16 countries. We have extensive knowledge of the top plastic surgeons, neurologists, orthopedists, and oncologists in each clinic. AiroMedical handles the selection of the hospital and physician, negotiates with the medical center, and offers support during and after treatment. You only need to submit a request, and our experts will take care of everything else.
- Volvak N. New oncology treatment in Germany. AiroMedical. Updated December 17, 2022. https://airomedical.com/blogs/articles/new-oncology-treatment-in-germany
- Volvak N. Treatment in Turkey (advantages and benefits). AjroMedical. Updated December 05, 2022. https://airomedical.com/blogs/articles/treatment-in-turkey-advantages-and-benefits
- Medical tourism global market report 2023. Research and markets. Published February, 2023. https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/5735386/medical-tourism-global-market-report#:~:text=The%20global%20medical%20tourism%20market,least%20in%20the%20short%20term.