What is Medical Tourism?
Traditionally, medical tourism is when patients travel from their own country to another country for planned medical care, typically because it costs less abroad (mostly between 50 and 80% less), but also because they cannot get a particular treatment in their home country. Throughout the world there are centres of excellence with expertise in all areas of medicine and surgery, from infertility treatments to plastic surgery. Medical treatment abroad is more for those seeking an operation that is cheaper than at home.
It also includes dental tourism – an area growing in popularity as dental costs escalate in some countries, and where insurance or public health services are falling short of providing the treatment or cover needed.
As the world has become a smaller place and people are travelling abroad more than before, medical tourism has evolved and now includes people who have gone to a destination on holiday and decided to get medical or dental treatment while they are there. Often these type of medical tourists opt for cosmetic treatments that are quick to administer with little downtime, for example teeth whitening, or anti-ageing treatments, like Botox or dermal fillers. Sometimes, people make a point of incorporating routine care, such as dental treatment, with their annual holiday – ensuring they maintain their oral health, but for a fraction of the price it would cost at home.
How does Medical Tourism help a solo traveller?
For solo travellers it is now much easier to find a reliable facility offering the services required just by doing a quick internet search. The internet has made it much easier for medical providers to advertise their services, but there are also directory services and specialist medical tourism companies who match up clinics and patients. From a broken filling in Bangkok to dermal fillers in Cancun there are plenty of ways to find exactly what you are looking for, whether it is emergency or elective treatment.
As foreigners flock to countries such as Colombia with the desire of a pearly smile and a celebrity figure, many more come for stem cell therapy and organ transplants. Cardiology, neurology and fertility treatments are just some of the popular procedures you will see in the country.
What About the Quality?
Medical Tourism is very much part of the economy in some countries. Places like Thailand in Southeast Asia and Mexico and Colombia in Latin-America fully embraced medical tourism some years ago. As a result, they have an excellent infrastructure serving foreign medical travellers with facilities that are on a par – and in some cases considerably better – than the facilities many travellers are used to at home.
Generally, the relationship between providers and medical tourists is a symbiotic one – and it is in the interests of medical providers to provide the best possible services to patients to ensure they continue to come. Thus, it is often the case that facilities catering for international patients are contemporary and modern, often resembling boutique hotels rather than medical establishments. They are often equipped with the latest technologies and staffed with highly-skilled, trained and qualified medical teams to deliver reliable, customer-oriented care.
However, with something as important as healthcare it doesn’t do any harm to do your own due diligence. There are a few factors to take into consideration when assessing any medical facility. Obviously, check online. Look at photos, patient testimonials and any other information you can find. Are they generally positive? What about the doctor/dentist you have chosen? Again, are there former patient reviews? What are their qualifications? Do they have membership of international professional organisations? How experienced are they? Do they offer guarantees or warranties on their work, and if so, what exactly do they cover?
While no medical treatment can ever be guaranteed completely, ensuring the credentials of your chosen provider stack-up will minimise the risk of anything untoward happening. As a solo traveller, finding out valuable, trustworthy information is of paramount importance. You’ve only got yourself to rely on so equip yourself with the knowledge you need to be able to make an informed choice when or if you need medical or dental care.