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Traveling for a Cure

by Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
(Page 1 of 2)

In the very olden days, people traveled to “take cures” at the Swiss Alps and other locales such as tuberculosis sanatoriums. Traveling to receive treatment, even several weeks to convalesce at the beach, was often a first choice option. Our current society, defined by insurance diagnosis codes and restrictions on coverage, may contribute to moving us toward “med tourism” as an alternative to being turned down for needed care.

Individuals who travel to other countries for less expensive (and some say better) treatment, elective or not, are finding they can sightsee while they have laser eye surgery. Healthcare consumers evaluate destination, quality of care and cost. This is a big change from being forced to obtain care because insurance assigns the doctor.

A six thousand dollar “nose job” in the United States may be as little as one third the cost in South America. The added bonus of travel and international caretaking (paid for by the savings in medical prices) are alluring. Depending on the type of surgery, there are tours and special treatments (massage, spa and other therapies).

Medical tourists are not limited to elective procedures. Alternative options exist for bone and joint surgery and heart and vascular repair to name a few. There may be shorter wait times for a doctor with expertise in the field to become available for a procedure, too.

A down side to the international aspect is when a given country is short on aftercare help. This may not appear to be an issue, but when doctors are the only ones managing respirators, having a knowledgeable technician is important. Nursing staff may be at par, and rendering these services, so it’s best to research this aspect as well. Many surgeries require post-op physical therapy. Asking who handles it (nursing or specialty therapists) is better done before the plane ticket is purchased. Don’t always rely on the “booking agent” and take the time to look into the matter.

David Hancock, author of The Complete Medical Tourist, compiled a listing of prices and perks for his book. He began researching after his own medical tourism experience and now has his own website.

The medical tourist experience will vary from one person to another, and some companies specialize in helping the individual customize their experience. Culture shock is an important factor in assessing whether it is right for the individual. It may seem like a fantastic deal where the money is concerned, but other factors apply.  How well do you travel as a tourist in the next state, or even county? If you get frustrated just finding a pack of antacids, or become irritated with “slower” people living in some areas, then international travel may not be for you. The price may be much higher when it comes to stress affecting your healing process.

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