I Want to Go Abroad for Medical Care. Where Do I Start?
So you’ve decided to consider medical tourism, but aren’t sure where to start.
Here are some basic steps to help you prepare for a medical excursion:
- Obtain a diagnosis from your primary care doctor or specialist in the U.S.
- Consult with your physician throughout the process.
- Weigh the pros and cons of using a medical tourism facilitator (see below).
- Prepare for travel by getting your passport, visa, vaccines, pre-op exams, etc. as applicable.
- Research the best destinations & facilities for your treatment. Some helpful resources are Patients Beyond Borders, Health-Tourism.com, MedicalTourism.com, and Medigo.
- Select exclusively from international facilities which are JCI-accredited or meet a similar internationally reputable accreditation standard such as ISO 9001.
- Verify that your prospective doctor or facility is trustworthy and that your medical records will be secure. Ask your primary care doctor for assistance.
- Contact each prospective doctor, hospital, or treatment center directly. Even if you hire a facilitator, you should also speak directly with the facility that will be providing your medical care abroad. You can usually contact them via phone, e-mail, or web form.
- Ask each prospective doctor or facility any relevant questions, and after selecting them, follow their instructions such as obtaining any requisite tests pre-treatment. For examples of questions to ask, see below.
- Obtain a price quote from each doctor or facility that you are considering, and discuss potential travel dates.
- Plan your trip including time before and after your treatment.
- Finalize your itinerary with the facility and pay for your procedure(s).
- Budget for expected and unexpected costs, including: unexpected complications; pre-operative exams; longer than expected hospital stays; extra medication or treatment; medical tourism facilitator fees; post-operative follow-up care; and underestimates of prices.
Should you hire a “medical tourism facilitator”?
Advantages of using a medical tourism facilitator include: one-stop medical tourism shopping; access to established relationships with international providers; convenient transfer of medical information; and minimizing linguistic and cultural barriers. Disadvantages include: variability in quality from one facilitator to another; risk of individual bias towards certain hospitals and destinations; increased costs; and risks of miscommunication by adding a “middle man” to your process.
Generally, the more experts you consult when considering medical tourism, the better. However, the advice of your primary care physicians and specialists at home should always be taken more seriously than any advice from a medical tourism facilitator who may have a “credential” but is not a doctor.
Here are some questions to ask your prospective doctor:
- What are your credentials? Where did receive your medical degree? Where was your internship? What types of continuing education workshops have you attended recently?
- How many patients do you see each month?
- To what associations do you belong?
- How many patients have you treated who have had my condition?
- What are the fees for your initial consultation?
- May I call you on your cell phone before, during, and after treatment?
- What medical and personal health records do you need to assess my condition and treatment needs?
- Do you practice alone, or with others in a clinic or hospital?
- Are you the physician who oversees my entire treatment, including pre-treatment, prescriptions, physical therapy recommendations, etc.?
- (If applicable): Who’s holding the knife during my procedure? Do you do the surgery yourself, or do your assistants do the surgery?
Here are some questions to ask your prospective medical facility:
- Do I need to get any tests prior to traveling to your country for care?
- What kind of follow-up care am I likely to need once I return?
- How long will I need to plan to stay there post-treatment for recovery?
- How far is the hotel or recovery resort from the hospital?
- What are your recovery facilities like?
- What should I bring with me aside from my medical records?
- Should I bring a companion on my medical tourism trip?
- Can I bring a companion if I want to? Can I bring my children if I want to?
- Does it cost extra to have a companion overnight in my hospital room?
How can SAMI-Aid help on your medical tourism journey?
If you're exploring your options for healthcare abroad, the next step is to try out SAMI-Aid’s exclusive Medical Tourism Wizard search tool. We have painstakingly researched many international facilities, and included only those which have a good reputation for high standards of safety and quality. These facilities are also located in attractive destinations and offer 30% to 80% savings on surgeries and medical treatments versus the same treatments in the U.S. Our Medical Tourism Wizard is available to all SAMI-Aid Premium members. For just $79.99 per month, Premium members also get two free doctor or therapy visits per month, plus access to our Provider & Price Search tool for comparing prices on office visits with local doctors and clinics. Register for an account today, travel the world, and find the best health care anywhere through SAMI-Aid!