By Elizabeth Ziemba, President Medical Tourism Training
What should an informed consumer consider before selecting a hospital or clinic away from home to receive any type of healthcare services? Here are nine topics to consider before becoming a medical or dental tourist.
1. Ask yourself, “Can I plan this trip by myself, or should I get help from a professional?”
The answer to the question may have more to do with the type of treatment you are seeking than your ability to invest time and energy in doing it yourself. The more complex the procedure you are seeking, the more you may want to select (a) a facilitator – a third party agent who can assist with the selection of the destination, hospital or clinic, and other logistics, or (b) a hospital or clinic that assists with logistics in addition to providing the treatment through an International Patient Department.
The third option, Do It Yourself, may be easier if you are already familiar with the destination where you will be treated and if the procedure itself can be done on an outpatient basis.
2. Research, research, and more research!
Regardless of whether you work with a professional or DIY your trip, do your own research. Learn about the destination – city, country – where you will go. Investigate possible treatment options, both the positive and negative aspects. Read reviews about the hospital or clinic, doctors, and other information from reliable sources.
Google is your friend. Know before you go!
3. Schedule tele-consultations
Schedule teleconsultations with the medical professional(s) who will be providing your surgery or other services. Make sure the communications are clear – no language barriers and your questions are answered completely. If you are unsure about the accuracy or clarity of communications, keep searching.
4. Request an estimate of costs
The cost estimate should detail what is included. Ask what is not included. Surgeons often bill separately from hospitals and clinics. Obtain estimates for both. Factor in other medically related costs that are excluded such as prescriptions and have a reserve in case extra services are needed.
5. Calculate your costs
The expenses associated with traveling for healthcare services can add up quickly. Calculate the costs of your treatment as well as the expenses associated with traveling to the destination, accommodations, meals, in-country transportation, and other out of pocket expenses. Calculate the costs of anyone traveling with you too.
6. Travel with someone
Receiving healthcare treatments anywhere is stressful. Traveling away from home for medical or dental care is even more stressful. A trusted travel companion can help reassure you, act on your behalf in case of an emergency, ask questions about your care that you may have forgotten, and share the adventure with you.
7. Confirm what is included in the travel package
Many providers offer packages that include the medical services as well as hotel, airport transportation, and other benefits. For example, does the hotel include breakfast and Internet or are they extra? Does the transportation include pick up and drop off for each medical appointment or is that extra? Are prescriptions included in the price of the package or is that extra?
8. Buy travel insurance
Travel insurance is affordable and confusing especially when it comes to all the “little print”. While it will not cover the cost of your medical or dental procedure, even basic coverage helps if you miss a flight, your baggage gets lost, or you have an emergency. If you travel far away from home, have a complex medical history, or simply want to have coverage in case something goes wrong, learn about coverage for “repatriation” and “evacuation”.
9. Confirm your healthcare benefits
If you have health insurance, verify what it will and will not cover. Most US insurance plans do not cover treatment outside the US. Your coverage may be an exception especially in case of an emergency whether in or outside the US. Know your options. As more and more people around the world travel to receive medical and dental services away from home, health travelers must educate themselves to make smart choices.
These tips are based on what I know about the dental and medical travel world. While I do not work with consumers to match them with services, I do work with hospitals, clinics, and governments to ensure that their medical tourism offerings are safe, transparent, and clinically sound. Be your own patient advocate for excellent clinical care, ensure your safety, and expect the best possible patient experience! Safe and healthy travels.
Listen to the podcast, “Medical Tourism Risks and Benefits” on HealthCall with host Lee Kelso talking with Medical Tourism Training’s President, Elizabeth Ziemba.