Medical tourism is one of the fastest growing niches in the travel industry. Some make the distinction between medical travel and medical tourism, with the former being trips made solely for medical purposes, and the latter for those who wish to combine tourism with their medical treatments. I prefer to use the term medical tourism for both types of trips since the family members and the patient both normally have the option of sightseeing while in the country.
How does one choose the particular destination to receive the needed medical procedures? For most people the answer is rather simple.
Most of the decision making on medical tourist destinations revolves around two factors,
(1) the relative costs of the procedures, and
(2) the distance which one has to travel to get the procedures. One example of such destination decision making can be illustrated by dental tourism.
Citizens of the United States and Canada are more likely to go to Latin America for dental procedures; citizens of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are more likely to go to the Eastern European countries of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. As long as the distances are similar, the cost factor overrides the distance factor.
However, when the medical procedure is a highly specialized one, like heart surgery or knee replacement, a third factor outweighs both cost and distance. That factor is medical proficiency in the procedure. With the most serious medical needs the qualifications of the doctors and hospitals involved take precedence over cost and distance. Factors such as hospital affiliations with medical groups like Johns Hopkins Medicine International and the type of certification the hospital has become critically important. For example, over 200 facilities outside of the United States have received accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI). Approval through the multi-step accreditation program of JCI is a good indication of the quality of the institution.
With more specialized procedures the choice of your medical tourism destination becomes more serious in consequences but is no harder to research. A simple Google search on the internet for the three keyword phrases: “medical tourism”, “medical travel”, and “medical travel facilitators” will return a multitude of resources to study. And, as you research these links, you will find numerous other links from within those web sites that will expand on each topic.
You will find lists of medical travel facilitators who can provide you with a complete travel and medical package, tailoring a trip specific to your medical and travel needs. These travel facilitators include such groups as Patients Without Borders, MedRetreat, and Medical Nomad. Among your search results will probably be these and others with similar programs.
In summary, in choosing your medical tourism destination, you need to:
Know exactly the procedure you need. You can learn this from your personal doctor.
Determine which countries have doctors and hospitals that perform this procedure.
Select the ones that are accredited and have been rated highly by others.
Based on a cost analysis of your chosen list of doctors and hospitals, determine which destination fits most closely with your personal medical and financial needs.
Either personally make your travel and medical arrangements, or contact a medical travel facilitator to do it for you.
Do it. Go take care of your medical problem while enjoying the thrill of spending time in another country.
Lamar Ross is an author, educator, photographer, internet entrepreneur, and international traveler. He has a special interest in training individuals for expatriate living and providing information on unique travel destinations. He has lived in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India and has traveled extensively in 29 different countries. He speaks both English and Spanish fluently and has a basic ability in several other languages.