Medical Travel Success – Plan and Ask Questions!

There are numerous reasons to travel outside one’s local area to receive a medical treatment.  A procedure may not be available where you live, the wait for it is too long, or the price is too high. With the world becoming so well connected and easy to communicate, all one has to do is to look up a reputable hospital and hop on the plane or drive. Sounds simple, but traveling for medical reasons is far more complicated and involved than regular travel. If you have determined that you are going to take your health matters in your hands and take a pro-active approach, this article will give you a couple of points to be aware of.

DO: Communicate and be transparent with your local medical professional – family physician or specialist.

First and foremost, we cannot emphasize the importance of communicating with your family doctor and/or specialist.  It matters tremendously at all stages of your medical journey, but especially before and after. Before the travel, give your doctor an opportunity to voice all of his/her concerns with your plans.  It will help you mitigate the risks associated with receiving medical care abroad. Remember, only your doctor will have the medical facts and necessary expertise to raise such concerns. You can ask for a second (or third) opinion, or do your own research, but it all starts with you and your doctor.

It also ends here. When you come back from your procedure, your doctor will not be surprised and unprepared to learn about your journey and if necessary, provide or advise post op care. In many, if not all surgeries, the recovery time and post op care are so important, that the success of the procedure largely depends on it and therefore, you have to have the medical support you need when you come back home.  Do talk to your family doctor 6-4 weeks or earlier before you go!

DON’T:  Go to a hospital that is not able to provide their HAI (Healthcare associated Infection) rates and prevention mechanisms.

Many internet articles and government health authority bodies warn medical travelers about accreditations and standards of out of the country hospitals and doctors, and rightfully so. However, not only you need to make sure that your hospital and doctor are properly accredited and certified, you need to make sure the hospital has an ongoing prevention plan for  preventing Healthcare associated infections (HAI). Are you aware that there are multi-drug resistant bacteria in hospitals and other health care facilities around the world?

For example there was a rapidly growing Mycobacterium outbreak among medical tourist to the Dominican Republic: 21 cases identified in 6 states, 13 of them or 62% underwent surgery at Clinic A. Significant time and resources were spent for recovery, including therapeutic surgical intervention, hospitalization and 3+months of antibiotic treatment.

Another example is a 2014 Q fever outbreak among US and Canadian travelers to Germany who received live cell therapy. 5 Patients tested seropositive for Coxiella burnetii after receiving injections of processed cells from nonhuman animals and 2 patients stated they were not informed of risk for Q fever before injection.  This procedure is not approved by US FDA.

In January through September 2015 there occurred a hepatitis C outbreak in Singapore. There were 25 cases, 20 were renal cases, and 8 deaths.

Outbreaks among medical tourists are inherently difficult to detect due to patients returning to broad geographical areas, non-notifiable conditions and the fact that communications between countries can impact detection of outbreaks.

While US and Canadian healthcare authorities  are making the effort and the results public and are willing to share progress  at preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAI), other countries’ healthcare systems may differ.  Ask your provider for a discussion of HAI rates and what is being done to prevent them.

DON’T: make your provider selection based on the price only.

While this may be the obvious one – we all are alarmed by a much lower price – figuring out quote price differences may prove to be daunting.  You now have to go through each quote to see why they differ and if the difference is going to affect the quality of your treatment and stay.  Ensure that all quotes are detailed and figure out what different hospitals consider extra to the quote to get a better picture of your final bill. Also, look for hidden costs and always know how the Medical Facilitator gets paid. It should not be hidden in your hospital costs. In addition, be prepared for complications and what the cost may be. It is best that you talk to a medical complication insurance agent about this as this may end up being very costly. In addition, your insurance agent will be able to spot hospitals that had bad cases and will not be able to insure you at that particular facility. That’s an additional risk management step you absolutely must take!

DO: Have a plan B.

Have you thought about the fact that there is a chance that after on site physical examination your doctor may advise a different treatment plan? There are cases of “change of treatment plans”. For example, a hip replacement client was given a less invasive, less costly alternative that would keep her quality of life for a few years before she has to have surgery. While it doesn’t mean you cannot have your surgery, it does mean that there may be more health related decision making on location and you have to be open and ready to discuss those. To prepare yourself, don’t be afraid to ask questions before you go.  Work with your doctor on the plan B before you leave.  The more planning you do the less stressful your medical journey will be.

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to discuss any of the medical travel issues further, please reach out to us – we are here to listen and give you the best answer today! Health Vantis specializes in making your medical travel more enjoyable by giving you our most personal support and care along the way – start to finish!