has enabled people to take advantage of competitively priced medical procedures abroad. However, even when taking a medical trip to an exotic location, you should always keep in mind the need for a full recovery and aftercare process.
As with any form of surgery or medical treatment, the recuperation and rest period after these procedures are imperative. The length and manner of recuperation will depend on the medical procedure rendered. For instance:
- a patient undergoing major heart surgery will require a long period of rest
- a patient undergoing a minor dental operation may return to work almost immediately
However, one thing is certain, aftercare is an intrinsic part of the whole treatment process. Whether the treatment is received at home or abroad, the patient should follow the aftercare instructions as advised by the surgeon or the doctor.
Potential Risk Factors in Medical TripsThe 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers,
conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions
- 3% of medical patients actually traveled outside the US for medical treatments
- 27% indicated that they would travel outside the US without any preconditions
- 39% would consider a procedure outside the US if the cost was less than 50% and the quality was equal to, or better than in the US
These figures indicate that respondents were not entirely concerned about quality and safety of the services offered by the medical tourism industry. However, the same figures indicate that people are still wary regarding the risks of undergoing treatment in a foreign country.
One of these potential risks is the difficulty in getting proper aftercare upon returning from the medical trip. If complications occur, expensive care may be needed for remediation. Aftercare coordination after a patient returns from a host country is one of the critical areas of concern for medical travelers.
Preliminary Considerations before Traveling Abroad
Medical aftercare should be factored into the treatment plan right from the start. The following are some of the key elements that medical travelers should first consider before embarking on their medical trip.
- Your own local doctor should be aware of any treatment or surgery that you will undergo.
- You should make scheduled appointments before and after treatment.
- Seek your doctor's advice on possible aftercare needs.
- Ask if a companion is needed during aftercare. (If your procedure does, make arrangements ahead of time).
Whether you plan to do research on your own, or work with local Medical Tourism agencies:
- It is important to have a remote evaluation with your physicians abroad.
- Make use of the Electronic Medical Records system that medical intermediaries use, to coordinate with the foreign hospitals. EMRs, patient records, drug interactions, radiology and laboratory test results can be easily accessed even during aftercare.
- You must clearly understand the recuperation requirements of your treatment including time and environment.
These should be factored into your plan. Recuperation may be slow, painful and require post-operative monitoring for several days at the clinic. Other enquiries and information that should be collected from the medical service providers, includes:
- The type of aftercare provided by the medical facility abroad.
- The length of stay necessary before traveling back 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.
US-Based Partnerships with Outbound Medical Tourism Providers
With the popularity of the medical tourism industry picking up over the last few years, several prestigious US-based healthcare providers have partnered with foreign providers to offer the best care for medical travelers.
Patients going through these partnership channels, have the advantage of receiving proper aftercare services upon their return home. These partnerships make the transference of your treatment files from foreign to local provider run more effectively and securely.
The leading providers are as follows:
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: Has a medical center in Qatar and a cancer center in Dublin. They are currently developing a hospital in Palermo, Sicily.
- Harvard Medicine: Has developed more than 50 programs and partnerships in more than 30 countries.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Has established partnerships with several medical institutions in countries including Hong Kong, Barcelona, Geneva, Sao Paolo, Seoul, Istanbul, Singapore and the Philippines.
- Cornell Medical School: Has a medical school in Qatar and a research institute in Seoul and is affiliated with several other institutions including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Hospital for Special Surgery.
- Duke Medicine: A partner of the Duke-NUS Medical Graduate School in Singapore.
- John Hopkins Hospital: Has partnerships with several reputable medical institutions in Japan, Singapore, India, UAE, Canada, Lebanon, Turkey, Ireland, Portugal, Chile and Panama City.
- Cleveland Clinic: Has a satellite campus in Canada.
- Columbia University Medical Center: Has partnered with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to form the Medical School for International Health. CUMC is also affiliated with the American Hospital in Paris, the Florence Nightingale Hospital in Istanbul, and the St. Luke's Medical Center in the Philippines.
In addition to these medical institutions, there are US-based medical tourism service providers and agencies that have partnerships with certified medical providers in destination countries. These groups also have their own professionally certified medical staff that can provide support and aftercare services for their clients upon returning from their medical trip. These services include:
- 24-hour medical help lines
- Post-procedure checkups
- Prescription services
- Higher levels of care
- Customized service based on the clients' requirements
Medical Trip Recovery Options
Depending on the type of treatment undertaken, the patient is offered the option to spend their full recuperation period in the comfort of their vacation accommodation. This refreshing experience can be good for the patient and hasten the recovery process.
Traveling immediately after surgery or treatment can cause stress to the patient's body and will not be conducive to the healing process. A relaxed holiday, in a quiet and serene environment, is the best option for recovery. Some recovery options available for medical travelers include:
- Healthcare destinations in India, China and Thailand include partnerships with first-class accommodation providers for hotel and transportation, including recovery facilities for post-surgery or post-treatment patients.
- Vacation activities typical of the culture and facilities of the host country. However, the patient should understand and watch out for activities that could have negative effects on their post-treatment conditions.
- In South Africa, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery patients enjoy top accommodations from first-class hotels. In addition, patients recuperating can extend their stay in game lodges inside the country's best wildlife parks.
Returning Home After Your Medical Trip
Some procedures and treatments require follow-up care after you return home. Additional procedures, like the removal of stitches and prescription medicines, may be required as part of the recovery process. The following are the steps that you need to perform when you return from your medical trip:
- If you traveled abroad on your own, you need to get in touch with your local doctor for a follow-up check-up.
- Prepare all necessary information from the foreign provider that your doctor will need. This includes your foreign provider's contact information.
- In a similar manner, if you received services from a medical tourism agency, you need to get in touch with their in-house medical staff to render aftercare and other related services. Your information can be easily retrieved from the EMR for their reference.
- Participate in aftercare programs and other procedures as required by your doctors to achieve continued improvement after surgery or medical treatment. This includes regular consultations with your aftercare doctors at periodic intervals depending on the type of procedure you have undertaken.