Private Surgery In Canada and Beyond

While healthcare is free to all Canadians, we are all aware that we do pay for it through taxes and that access to it can be limited. Oftentimes Canadians experience lengthy wait times for some surgeries and lack of training and proper equipment for the latest surgical technologies and advances. Health Vantis helps connect Canadians with private surgical and treatment facilities that have no waitlists and can be arranged as fast as 1-2 weeks.

Some private surgical facilities exist in Canada, but there are very few and limited to what they can do, and, surprisingly, how fast they can accommodate. Through the years we have found that access to private surgery in Canada is also a bit of a wait, however, not nearly as bad as the public system.

Often times we get calls from people that are at the end of their patience reserves and need help asap. In most cases, we can help. We have a unique system of working with different medical facilities and select the best suited for our client’s needs. We do not get paid by medical facilities and connect our clients with the most appropriate, experienced and trained doctor for their ailment. Other facilitators may contract out with medical facilities which means that they will only send you tp one place, where they get paid.

Being honest and transparent with our clients is our priority. You will know the costs upfront, and there is never a hidden fee. We send our clients to the facilities we visited so that they have peace of mind. If you have any questions or concerns, we will stay with you all the way through your medical journey until you are back home.

If you are interested in learning more about how to get your surgery in a private manner give us a call toll-free 877 344 3544 and we will be happy to help!

Robotic Hysterectomy

 

In our last blog, we wrote about laparoscopic hysterectomy. Robot-assisted surgery is now coming into wider use for treating conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, uterine bleeding, adenomyosis and other. A robotic hysterectomy is a variation of laparoscopic surgery using special remotely controlled tools that provide surgeons with special wrist instruments that bend and rotate at far greater precision than the human wrist. This along with three-dimensional magnified vision gives doctors the ability to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control.

Robot-assisted surgery allows for excellent visualization of the blood vessels, ureters and surrounding tissue as well as improved ability to suture the vagina after removal of the uterus and cervix. Operating through small incisions leaves minimal scarring and leads to faster recovery. Other advantages of robotic hysterectomy over a traditional open surgery one are lower infection rates, much faster recovery time, less pain and fewer post-op complications.

All surgeons performing this procedure have to be properly trained. Health Vantis works with facilities that offer this type of surgery in a safe, affordable and private manner. In Canada, only a few places offer it and the wait times are significant. If you are interested in having this procedure done, contact us to find out more details. We can usually accommodate our clients within 2 weeks, provided they have their medical records and are deemed to be good candidates for this surgery. Give us a call toll-free 1 877 344 3544 and get your one-hour complimentary evaluation.

September 2019 Newsletter

We welcome September as the first month of the Fall, still warm and beautiful, with crisper air and golden leaves peeking through. Things start settling into routines as we head towards cooler weather. In this issue, we bring to you some news about a promising new Alzheimer’s blood test, some information on how to get your medical records in Canada and a list of Medical travel Do’s and Don’t.

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is progressive and not reversible, causing memory problems that become severe over time. Eventually, people with Alzheimer’s can not perform their daily tasks.

Detection and Diagnosis

Diagnostic methods have improved in recent years, but there is still not a single diagnostic test to determine if someone has Alzheimer’s disease. A number of tools and tests are used to help with diagnosis. They usually include physical exam and review of medical history, a neurological exam, mental status test and brain imaging, such as CT scan or/and MRI. All other diseases should be ruled out prior to diagnosing someone with dementia.

Early Diagnosis

Getting an early accurate diagnosis is beneficial for several reasons. The person is able to participate actively in their own health-care decisions and future plans. They are able to focus on what is important to them, make informed decisions about legal, financial and care matter and ensure that their families and friends know.

Starting medications early, when they are most effective, is another benefit. While current medications can not stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time. Also, people that are diagnosed early are able to participate in clinical trials of new medications and diagnostic tools. All current medications help mask the symptoms of the disease but do not treat the underlying causes or delay its progression. Several new medications are in development and testing. However, they need more volunteers. Trials are recruiting people with Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment, as well as healthy individuals to be controls. To find out more about participation in a clinical trial click here.

Future of early diagnosis

Two proteins are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, one is called tau and the other one is beta-amyloid. The disease is described as having tangles and plaques on brain MRI images. Tau forms tangles and beta-amyloid form plaques in the brain.

Tau proteins play a vital role in how nutrients and other important materials are transported in the brain and keep the brain cells alive. In unhealthy brain areas, tau protein collapses and twists, thus “tangles”. These tangles prevent nutrients from reaching brain cells, resulting in cell death.

Beta-amyloids molecules clump and those clumps form plaques. As plaques spread, the cells of the brain are unable to receive signals between nerve cells and cause cells to die.

Beta-amyloid spreads throughout the brain at an early stage, decades before the patient notices signs of the disease. Tau, on the other hand, starts to spread at a later stage, from the temporal lobes to other parts of the brain.

Early detection of these proteins enables earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer. Two of the recent detection research findings are worth noting.

The first one is a tau-PET scan. Researchers developed a PET scan to determine the presence of tau. When tau begins to spread the neurons start dying and patients start experiencing the first problems with the disease. A tau-PET scan detected 90-95% of all causes of Alzheimer and only gave a few false positives in patients with other diseases.

The second one just recently made the news. It is a blood test that can identify Alzheimer’s almost 20 years before symptoms appear. The blood test developed can detect the start of beta-amyloids build up in the brain. PET scans can already detect these build-ups, so researchers looked at the results of the newly developed blood test and the results of the PET scans. They saw that the results agreed 88% of the time. In an attempt to refine the results and improve the blood test accuracy the researchers then took into account other risk factors such as age and a specific genetic variant. The accuracy went up to 94%!

Also of importance is the fact that those participants flagged as false positives based on the results of their PET scans showed positive test results years later. This may suggest that some of the early blood tests were more sensitive than the brain scans in detecting the disease in the very early stages.

Blood tests are much easier and faster to perform than PET scans and if these findings are approved then Alzheimer’s will be easier to diagnose, treat early and recruit participants in clinical trials.

To learn more about these two researches we provided the links to the first one here and the second one here. To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease click here.

Medical Records and How to Obtain Them in Canada

When we start working with a prospective client, we ask them to collect and submit their medical records for a doctor’s review. This part of our process sometimes takes the longest. We came across a few cases where people were unaware how to get them, other than asking their family doctor. Asking your family doctor will probably get you as far as the visits in her office and sometimes blood work, but other important records can be at a hospital or a diagnostics facility you were treated at.

So how do you get your medical records at a hospital or a diagnostic facility? Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), a request must be made in writing. Depending on the province you reside in the request can be usually faxed or emailed to a hospital’s Health Records Department. They, in turn, have up to 30 days to provide you with an electronic or paper copy of your medical records. There is a small charge involved in this and usually depends if you wanted your diagnostic records on a CD, if you prefer printed copies, etc. The fees range between $35-$85, from our experience, although they may change in the future.

In Nova Scotia, where we are based, all the records have to be requested by either faxing or emailing in a request form.

In Alberta, you can access your medical records online. Once you create an account and digital ID, you should be able to view your records any time.

In British Columbia, you will need to reach out to your local health authority. This can also be done online. For example, for those belonging to Island Health, you can go here, or if you are under Vancouver Coastal Health the form can be found here

In Ontario, the process is very similar to that of BC. You will need to contact the Health Information custodian and submit a form via fax or email. Health Information custodians are defined as doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, labs, etc. We always advise calling the hospital or facility you were treated at and ask them what their processes and fees are, as they may have their own form to fill out.

Other provinces have similar rules and processes.

Getting medical records can take time and patience. Health Vantis can do this for you, provided the proper forms are filled out and signed by you, our client. For more info, please contact us at toll-free 1 877 344 3544 or by email info@healthvantis.com

 

Medical Travel Do’s and Don’ts

Travelling for medical reasons can be complicated. Not only someone is stressed about their surgery or treatment there are other things to consider when planning a trip to get better. Here we highlight a few do and don’t items to help you plan your medical journey successfully.

DO:

  • Do all the research you can about the doctor and the facility you are going to. Ask if you can talk to some of the doctor’s patients. Sometimes it is possible. Doing your own research will help you make a better decision on where to go for treatment. If you are short on time and are not able to do all the research, consider hiring a medical travel facilitator. A good medical travel facilitator will be able to provide you with feedback on the doctor and the facility.
  • Ask your doctor questions about your procedure. Make sure you understand the risks and possible outcomes. Knowing these things will help you keep calm before and after surgery. Stress hinders recovery and can affect surgical outcomes.
  • Find out the exact pricing and what additional items you may be charged for. This one is sometimes very tough, but most of the time once a doctor reviewed your medical records, they will be able to provide you with an accurate estimate
  • Communicate with your doctor in Canada. It is a good idea to bring up the intent to travel 4-6 weeks before you plan to go. Your medical provider needs to know about your plans because she or he will be able to give you some valuable advice beforehand as well as see you after you come back home.

DON’T

  • Make a selection of the doctor and facility based on price only. Ensure that you will be receiving treatment in a safe manner by a qualified doctor and at a certified facility with known outcomes. Many news stories covered cheap surgeries in the Dominican Republic and Mexico that ended badly. Be wise, and when in doubt, ask questions.
  • Give up on an exercise program or a healthy diet. Even if your mobility is limited, there are a number of programs that allow for gentle exercises, such as swimming (for those with back pain) or walking. Eating healthy will keep your weight in check and prevent unnecessary weight gain.
  • Expect the results overnight. Any surgery is a serious medical procedure and the recovery may be lengthy no matter if you had it at the best place and by the best surgeon possible.

Laparoscopic Hysterectomy

Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and sometimes ovaries. It is one of the most common surgical procedures in Canada.  It’s major surgery, but for many women suffering from painful fibroids, heavy bleeding, or other gynecological problems, it’s a life-changing procedure. Just a few years back there was only one option to surgery- a traditional approach, open surgery with six weeks recovery time.

The advances in technology now allow for less invasive ways, such as laparoscopic and robotic hysterectomies. Today we will highlight laparoscopic hysterectomy.

A laparoscopic hysterectomy is a minimally invasive surgery to remove the uterus with less pain and faster recovery time.  A small incision is made in the belly button and a tiny camera is inserted. The surgeon watches the image from this camera on a TV screen and performs the operative procedure. Two or three other tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen. Specialized instruments are inserted and used to remove the uterus.

The recovery time is much shorter with this procedure – about 2 weeks. Studies also show that this is a safe procedure, with little complication rates and fewer infection rates that a traditional hysterectomy as it requires less cutting and less time spent in the hospital. It is an outpatient procedure and requires no stay at the hospital.

A surgeon has to have the proper training to perform this procedure. The waitlists for laparoscopic hysterectomy average from 5-6 months to over a year, depending on which province you reside in. If you are interested in getting this done sooner in a safe, affordable and private manner we can help. We can set you up for surgery in 2 weeks, provided you have your medical records and a fit for this type of surgery. Contact us for more details and free one-hour evaluation, toll-free 1 877 344 3544

Read our blog next Wednesday – we will present information about robotic hysterectomy!

Private PET Scan

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a diagnostic test that uses small amounts of radioactive chemical to show activity within the body on a cellular level. It helps doctors see how the organs and tissues inside your body are functioning. This test can be used to help diagnose or to evaluate how well a treatment is working.

PET scans are usually done to detect cancer, to evaluate the effectiveness of a cancer treatment therapy, to identify heart disease or a brain disorder. They measure blood flow, oxygen use, how your body uses sugar and much more. It is usually an outpatient procedure and takes about 2 hours.

PET scans can detect very early changes in your cells. CT scans and MRIs can only detect changes later, as a disease alters the structure of your organs or tissues. Sometimes a combination of two scans, CT and PET, is used to get a more well-rounded picture of the health issue.

If you are on a medical wait list to get a PET scan and do not wish to wait, we can arrange it privately. Give us a call to find out more details. Toll free 1 877 344 3544.

Free Medical Facilitation Service

Many people travel to get medical services outside of their country. An estimate of over 1 million Canadians left Canada in 2018 and received medical services someplace else. Some choose to hire a medical facilitator to help them navigate medical services in a foreign country with different laws and customs.

We at Health Vantis are such a firm. We help Canadians plan and travel for medical treatments and surgeries in the US.  However, US healthcare can be confusing and very expensive. Getting one price for surgery may prove to be nearly impossible. And even if you manage that on your own, you could be given an outrageous quote for a 20-minute outpatient surgery.

Health Vantis helps you get to a timely and safe treatment in an affordable manner. We can not do this for free. However, we believe in price transparency and honesty. Not all medical facilitation firms do their business this way. Some do not disclose what they charge their clients and bury their fee in one price. Some get paid by the facilities they refer their clients to. Such practices are illegal and unethical in the United States. In some other countries, they are not.

So what is the issue at hand you may ask? Does it matter if there is a full disclosure if I end up paying it anyway? The answer is two-fold. First comes trust. Health issues are very personal. You should be able to trust your medical facilitator. And they should be able to trust you and tell you what their services cost. This is a very delicate subject, but necessary to avoid being overcharged. Standard industry charge for medical facilitation is 10-15% of the surgery/treatment price.

Second is acting in the best interest of the client. If your facilitator gets paid by the medical facility or somehow hides it and holds a percentage out of your total payment – well, where do you think the facilitator will send you to? To the place that pays them, and not to the best suited or best qualified medical facility based on your medical issue. This is not acting in the best interest of the client.

When selecting your medical facilitator keep in mind that they are not working for free. Before committing to one, ensure that you trust them and they trust you and that they are not incentivized to act in their own interests, instead of yours.

Private Stapedectomy/Stapedotomy

Hearing loss affects 40% of Canadian adults aged 20 to 79, and 8% of children aged 6 to 19. There are a few reasons this can occur. One of them is otosclerosis. The condition is diagnosed by an otolaryngologist using hearing tests and physical examination.

In many cases, surgery is an option for the treatment of otosclerosis. The name of the surgery performed is stapedectomy or stapedotomy. Currently, stapedotomy is the treatment of choice for otosclerosis with stapes fixation. It is both simpler and safer than stapedectomy.

Health Vantis works with facilities that can do this surgery in a private manner. The wait list to see a surgeon in Canada for this procedure can take up to a year. If you or your loved one are losing hearing and need to access medical treatment faster than the current system allows, give us a call. Toll -free 1 877 344 3544.

3 Tops Reasons Why Medical Facilitator is Better Than Internet Search

What is Medical Facilitation? This question comes up in our conversation with our prospective clients, although worded differently. People ask what value we add to their internet search of a given condition or surgery. We go over our answer in the highlighted points below.

Internet Search Search Doesn’t Actually Visit All the Places, We Do!

Google search is a very powerful tool when it comes to internet search. We use it ourselves when we get an issue that is complex or requires additional investigation. With Google Earth and ability to view the surrounding area it comes as close as it can in its ability to evaluate the surrounding area. However, Health Vantis physically visits every facility we work with, inspects the inside and outside for you, meets with the doctors and administrators and asks a lot of logistical questions. We do it so that we know what to prep our clients for, so that their medical travel is less stressful. Knowing what to expect puts your mind at peace and lets you focus on getting better

Internet Search Does Not Provide Accurate Pricing, Health Vantis Does!

Although price range is sometimes given for a procedure or treatment, a lot depends on the condition of the client. Some are suited for surgery and some require additional testing. We can obtain accurate pricing for your medical treatment or procedure. Even though the US now requires hospitals to make their pricing public, finding the total price remains a challenge. Not only you will need to get the surgeon fees, but also facility, anaesthesia and whoever else may need to be involved in your procedure. You will need to know what medical billing codes are required for your procedure. An MRI is not just an MRI, there are different types for different parts of the body. Sometimes contrast is used, and a different billing code is used for that. The price will also differ based on the insurance one carries. Since Canadians carry none, the pricing you see on the internet is inaccurate.

Health Vantis identified and visited facilities that are skilled at providing a bundled price for Canadians.  And if this is something we do not offer at the time; we are willing to do all the research and leg work for you. Last thing you want to do when you feel unwell is to chase medical billing codes and pricing info from different places.

Internet Search is Just That – a Search; Health Vantis is Your Guide, Serving You from Start to End!

Many details have to be thought out and planned prior to your medical travel date. There is a lot of info out there, and it takes time to process and sift through. How many surgeries has my doctor performed? Is she Board Certified? How will I get from this appointment to the other? Do I stay in this hotel or another? When you hire Health Vantis, we ensure that no detail is overlooked. We coordinate, schedule, verify and send you reminders. You will get a pdf guide that spells out your every appointment, hospital and doctor’s credentials, addresses, payments accepted, when to make the payment, currency conversion and so on. If you need physiotherapy when you return, we will book that too!

Newsletter, May 2019

My Medical Travel Story- Iron Infusions in the UK

People travel to get medical treatments for different reasons. We all have our stories and I wanted to share mine with you. I have been iron deficient and anemic for the past two years. Last June I was prescribed iron infusions locally. Over the course of 5 weeks the infusions were done at a local hospital and the cost was fully covered by Nova Scotia MSI. It felt great, I got my energy back and had a fantastic summer.

At the end of September, the symptoms of changing iron levels started slowly creeping back in. Due to heavy monthly bleeding, I was becoming iron deficient again. I was taking oral iron daily and my diet included red meat and spinach. Despite that, my ferritin levels kept going down. I was still bleeding heavily – something my GYN and I have been working on for the past 6 months. Being on warfarin was aggravating the blood loss.

I thought I would bring it up at the appointment with my doctor to see what the suggestion might be. It was to exercise more. My blood work didn’t indicate any anemia or deficiency. It did, however, indicate that the ferritin levels were declining. The suggestion to exercise left me feeling frustrated. I knew that exercise was not the answer. I work out at least 3 times a week, eat healthy, and my BMI is normal.

Fast forward the crazy busy holiday season and the dead of winter. My symptoms worsened over. Fatigue was now in charge of my life. I woke up tired.  All day was I waiting to go to bed only to lay there restlessly and unable to sleep well.

The reality of fatigue is debilitating. The solution for me was seemingly easy – get an iron infusion and that would get my energy back.

However, this solution is very hard to obtain. The blood work has to show anemia. I was just a couple of points above, ferritin at 22. The level to get an iron infusion is below ferritin 15. At these depleted levels, one would get a referral to an appointment with a speciality doctor, an internist (about 3 months wait here in NS). Then you would be referred to the day clinic for an infusion (can take about 2-3 weeks).

In the month of Feb, I realized that it is only going to get worse, and until I hit that ferritin bottom no one can do anything here in Nova Scotia for me. I will not get to the province funded infusions till June-July, considering wait times. This realization left me feeling anxious and scared.

I found supporting evidence that iron deficiency fatigue can be successfully treated in those unable to benefit from oral iron with an iron infusion. In one of the health blogs, I came across a YouTube video about an iron clinic in London, UK. I immediately reached out to Dr. Toby Richards, and got an answer by email in about an hour. My blood work does show a deficiency. They can help with an infusion and are able to accommodate the appointment pretty fast.  I would only need one appointment and an infusion due to the newer IV iron solution.

Yes, there was a cost. And I would have to get to London, which is another cost. So I pondered and shared this information with my friends. Oh, if only I lived in the UK!

One of my friends works for WestJet. Upon hearing my monologue about being tired, and inability to get treatment locally she said: “I am working the London route on Sunday and will have a 48h layover there. Why don’t you come with me?” The reasons were many – my mother in-law just had surgery and was in recovery in the hospital, I had to leave my business for 3 days, I had commitments at my son’s school, and his after school activities and a dentist appointment and so on…It would be hard to leave all this and go get better. But how can I take care of people around me, if I can not take care of myself?

The decision was made. An email to Dr. Richards secured an appointment in two days. I was on my way to get better. I felt nervous. The infusion was using Monofer, not the same as I had here in Canada, Venofer. Even though Dr. Richards assured me it is a safer one, and it allows just one infusion, I was still nervous. What if something happens?

I arrived at the Iron clinic office and was greeted by three smiling women, two doctors and one nurse. They were happy to answer many questions I had about iron and iron infusions. Dr. Abeysiri spoke with passion about the role of iron in a human body and the research that she has been doing on it. The office was sunny and the atmosphere was friendly. My blood pressure was monitored throughout the process. It was uneventful and I was done in about 1 hour.

Back home and now over a month after the infusion, my energy levels are up, I sleep well, and no longer experience the extreme fatigue. The quality of my life is significantly improved. I am very thankful for my dear friend and for the amazing team of health professionals at the Iron Clinic who made this happen.

 

May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month

During May, the Canadian Brain Tumor Foundation is reaching out to all Canadians to raise awareness about brain tumors. About 55,000 Canadians are living with a brain tumor, and every day there are 27 new brain tumor diagnoses. Depending on the type of tumor treatment plans differ. Today we wanted to highlight one of the treatment options – Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.

What Is Gamma Knife?

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery actually involves no knives or cutting. It is radiosurgery that uses specialized equipment to focus about 200 small beams of radiation on a tumor. Each beam uses weak radiation that passes harmlessly through normal tissue. They meet in the tumor spot, delivering a powerful radiation dose that affects the tumor cells. The radiation is targeted using MRI imaging, CT scans, and angiography to determine the extent of the tumor. Then a computer program maps the structure, which tells the surgeon exactly where to apply the radiation.

Why Is Gamma Knife Used?

No cutting means less invasive surgery. Sometimes a tumor in the brain is too hard to reach using standard surgery or a person is not healthy enough to undergo a standard neurosurgery. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is generally less risky than traditional neurosurgery. There are fewer complications associated with anesthesia, bleeding and infection. In addition, it may have a lower risk of side effects compared with other types of radiation surgery.

The surgery is usually an outpatient procedure and does not require stay in the hospital. Most people return to their daily activities within 1-2 days.

What Conditions Are Treated with Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?

A number of conditions can be treated with this surgery, not just brain tumors.

  • Acoustic neuromas
  • Blood vessel problems i.e. arteriovenous malformations
  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Nerve problems i.e. trigeminal neuralgia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pituitary tumors

Gamma Knife Radiosurgery is available at a few Canadian hospitals. If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, ask your doctor if you may be a good candidate for Gamma Knife treatment instead of traditional neurosurgery.

Happy Mother’s Day!

This, and any year, please remember to ensure you are current on preventative care for women. Below are some guidelines for generally healthy women. If you have a family history of any disease please ask your doctor about preventative screening based on your family history.

If you are 64 years or younger and are otherwise healthy:

  • Mammogram (age 50-74) every 2-3 years
  • Colorectal cancer screening age 50 -75 (fecal blood sample, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy) every 1-2 years
  • PAP Smear test (cervical cancer screening) every 3 years
  • Cholesterol testing every 1-5 years women over 40 years old
  • Diabetes screening
  • Bone density test

How Long Does a Joint Replacement Last?

Those suffering from arthritis in their joints are probably aware that a hip or knee replacement will relieve the pain for good. However, going through a total joint replacement surgery is undertaking a serious, albeit considered very successful surgery. If all non-surgical methods fail, your doctor will recommend a total hip or knee replacement.

One of the questions for your doctor should be “How long will my hip or knee last?”. It is an important factor to consider. Younger people are advised to wait to avoid future revisions. A standard answer to the longevity of the joint replacement has been 10-15 years.

A new study for hips and knees that came out in February 2019, tells us that joint replacements last longer. The study looked at almost 300,000 total knee replacements and over 200,000 total hip replacements. 58% of total hip replacement lasted 25 years. Total knee replacements had even longer longevity – 82% lasted 25 years.

Those numbers are encouraging for the ageing population of North America. It is worth to note, however, that the study collected data from joint replacement surgeries performed in New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The results can differ for Canada.

It is ultimately your decision if you prefer to wait or get it done sooner. If you are put on a waitlist for a joint replacement and no longer can deal with waiting, Health Vantis can help access private hip or knee replacements. Give us a call to find out the details. Toll Free 1 877 344 3544