Deciding Where to go for Medical Tourism

The following is a guide on how to choose your medical travel destination.

Cost Considerations

The cost of having medical procedures performed abroad at any medical travel destination is significantly lower, compared to having the same procedure performed in the US. The major costs come under hospital and doctors' fees. However, when calculating the total cost, you should also take into account all non-medical expenses.
These include:
  • Passport costs including travel visas and other document requirements
  • Airfare going to and from the host country
  • Airport pick-up on arrival and departure
  • Transportation costs from hotel to health provider's clinic or hospital and vice versa
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Food, drinks, and tips
  • International calls and other correspondence back home
  • Medication and medical supplies
  • Aftercare costs
  • Contingencies

The following table describes the costs of medical procedures among popular destination countries compared with retail costs of similar procedures in the US:

Country Savings on medical procedures as a percentage of US retail cost
Thailand 60% - 70%
Costa Rica 30% - 40%
India 70% - 80%
Mexico 25% - 35%
Singapore 55% - 65%
Malaysia 65% - 75%
Panama 40% - 70%
Hungary 40% - 50%
Brazil 40% - 50%
South Africa 60% - 70%

Medical Center Certification

When choosing a foreign provider for medical procedures, it is imperative that these hospitals and facilities comply with international standards and practices. These certifications will provide you with the assurance that you will receive quality treatment and care.
The following are some key checkpoints to consider when choosing a hospital or medical facility:
  • JCI Accreditation: JCI is the leading medical accreditation organization for medical facilities in the US and across the globe. If the hospital, clinic or treatment center is certified by the Joint Commission International, it is approved of as a high quality medical center.
    Check our List of JCI accredited medical centers ».
  • Aside from the JCI, the following are other international accreditation bodies that certify healthcare facilities on various global locations.
    - Accreditation Canada (CCHSA)
    - Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS)
    - International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua)
    - European Society for Quality in Healthcare (ESQH)
    - International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Check if the foreign hospitals and healthcare clinics you are considering are owned, managed or affiliated with American hospitals, medical providers, and prestigious universities.
  • Destination countries have their own localized medical certification bodies. Therefore, the medical provider you are considering should be certified by these organizations. An example of this is the Indian Healthcare Federation that provides accreditation for the country's local medical providers.

Learn more about checking out the medical center »

Doctor's Qualifications

Before choosing a particular foreign doctor or physician who will perform your required medical procedure, you should first consider the doctor's credentials and check for the following items:
  • You should make sure that the doctors, nurses and hospital staff in your target destination would be able to communicate with you in plain English.
  • The place of study and year the doctor graduated
  • The place and duration of internship and training
  • Local, American, or International board certification gained by the doctor and the year it was obtained
  • Membership with American or International medical societies.

Learn more about checking out the doctor »

Aftercare Considerations

A significant component in any medical procedure is aftercare. Medical travelers should obtain the following information from their healthcare provider:
  • The type of aftercare provided by the medical facility abroad.
  • The length of stay required before returning home.
  • The availability of prescribed aftercare medication in the USA.
  • Ease of contact with the medical staff abroad after returning home.
  • Return visits requirements.
  • Qualified medical staff affiliated with the medical tourism agency that can provide aftercare treatment as needed.

Learn more about medical trip aftercare »

Insurance and Liability

An important consideration when choosing a medical tourism destination is the question of liability. Despite the big savings that medical tourism provides, an increased risk may still be apparent. The following questions should be taken into account:
  • Does the destination country or the healthcare provider compensate victims of medical negligence for non-economic damages? If so, to what extent are malpractice awards provided?
  • Does your doctor have a liability insurance policy?
  • Does the medical center have a contract provision for medical malpractice insurance? If so, to what extent are liabilities covered?

Accommodation and other Non-medical Related Considerations

Your accommodation and other non-medical considerations play an important part in making your medical travel as comfortable as possible. The following items should be considered:
  • The type of accommodation provided by the medical center. Do they have their own accommodation or are they affiliated with an adjacent resort or vacation facility?
  • The proximity of the medical center to the accommodation facilities
  • Is transportation to and from the medical center provided? Do they also provide transportation to and from the airport and other tourist destinations?
  • What food services are provided by the accommodation facility? What types of food do they provide?

Recommendations

Most of the information you need regarding an international medical facility or/and a doctor, can be provided by a medical tourism intermediary or by direct coordination with the medical center. However, the information provided by these facilities should not be your sole basis in choosing a healthcare provider. Oftentimes, the most reliable information will come from other medical travelers who have undergone the same medical procedures or other similar treatments within that particular facility.
The following are some ways of obtaining reliable recommendations for potential healthcare tourism destinations:
  • If you are traveling through the assistance of a medical tourism intermediary, obtain contact information of former patients, preferably those who have undergone the same medical procedure that you require.
    Be aware that these will be the HAPPY customers. The unsatisfied ones will not be referred to you.
  • Ask the foreign medical center directly for references and contact information for former patients with similar medical cases as yours.
  • As stated above, be aware that these will be the HAPPY customers. The unsatisfied ones will not be referred to you.
  • You should also seek recommendations from friends and family if they or someone they know have undergone a similar procedure abroad.
  • Forums and blogs are good sources of first-hand information. Search for post related to your medical condition. You also have the opportunity to read the opinions and recommendations of others. But be alert to the fact that there are many "paid for" posts.