According to Patients Without Borders, the medical tourism market size is estimated to be worth at least $45 billion with an estimated 1,400,000 Americans traveling outside of the U.S. for medical care during 2016. Savings can be significant, with an average of 65 to 80 percent saved from receiving treatment in Malaysia, while Brazil may save 20 to 30 percent.
But is medical tourism safe? The answer depends largely on how well medical tourists are prepared, the facilities they pick and the nature of their illness and treatment. There are always risks if the clinic or hospital chosen does not practice the same sterilization procedures or is host to resistant bacteria that Americans haven’t been exposed to in the past. However, medical tourism can be very safe, cost effective and provide comparable care to hospitals in the United States. Take these five safety precautions before seeking your own medical treatment abroad.
Solicit Tailored Health Advice
Your journey through medical tourism should start with tailored advice from a medical professional familiar with your case. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends consulting with a travel health provider and your own practitioner at least four to six weeks before travel. Ask about the particular destination you’re seeking treatment. They should advise you to ask for a set of medical records from your overseas hospital or doctor to ensure details are documented to ensure the most appropriate care.
Preparing for Recovery
Post-recovering planning is a crucial part of any medical surgery whether you are traveling as a medical tourist or staying home bound. Infections are a pressing concern and should be monitored and treated appropriately. Ask your overseas provider about packages for recovery and what they include.
Some hospitals catering to medical tourists offer their own in-patient programs. Others partner with existing resorts to provide post-care in a more luxurious and comfortable setting. For example, Penang Adventist Hospital partnered with Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa on Batu Ferringhi Beach for a Wellness Escape Program.
Protecting Yourself from Theft
Recovering from surgery or other medical procedures can leave you physically and mentally vulnerable. Ensure your finances are safe by alerting all your financial institutions to your long term plans.
However, medical identity theft can also be an issue. Some thieves steal records in order to receive medical treatment and charge it to insurance, or to gain access to sensitive information like social security numbers. Enroll in a program like Life Lock to safeguard your identity. Lifelock can alert you when new accounts are open in your name, monitor your investments like 40k and meticulously monitor your online personal privacy.
Staying Connected to Loved Ones
Keeping in touch with loved ones can help foster peace of mind, and also help monitor any issues you’re having abroad. Agree on a set time every day that you’ll check in with friends and family by email, text or Skype and who they should contact if you fail to get in touch. A program like World Med Assist can also help stay connected with you, as well as your overseas doctor, to coordinate the appropriate care and alert loved ones if a problem arises.
Medical tourism can be a cost-effective and high-quality options for travelers seeking life-saving and elective surgery. But it requires diligence and planning to ensure your long-term health and safety come first.