Risks for Medical Tourists
While medical tourism is rising and there are undeniable benefits to citizens, we must ask the question; what are the risks and how can we ensure quality care and safety? More and more Americans are opting to travel abroad to avail of care and a variety of procedures every year. Reasons for the journey are reduced costs, shorter waiting lists and oddly enough convenience. Despite the apparent positives of medical tourism, there are negatives and most definitely risk factors that need to be considered by patients.
The majority of individuals availing of this new phenomenon are coming from first world countries such as the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. These individuals are travelling to poorer countries in order to avail of cheaper services, but is the quality of care to the same standard and can they be guaranteed the same service. Overall the quality of care abroad is high and people are availing of operations and procedures in countries such as Mexico and Thailand for a fraction of the cost that they would pay at home. Because of increasing demand standards are also increasing, so U.S citizens are feeling more confident and comfortable in accessing services abroad. There are however risk factors involved and people must be cautious in availing of these services. As with any product or service we must be informed before purchasing; health care is no different particularly when it is your well-being and essentially your life that is at stake.
In order to be safe you need to be informed, so it’s important to do some research; look for information on medical care in the country you intend to travel to. Research the procedure you are considering having done, what are the benefits of going abroad, what are the risks, are there specific standards that are adhered to in order to ensure patient safety? These are just some of the things that you need to ask before you make the decision to avail of medical tourism.
It is also essential that potential patients ensure that hospital and treatment centers are certified, that staff are qualified and accredited and that they have the necessary experience to preform specific procedures. In countries where national standards, evaluations and analysis are not implemented, it is completely in the hands of the individual to ensure the competency of the hospital and the surgeons. Ensuring accountability is also a must, what if there are complications, what if something goes wrong? There are health tourism providers/ medical tourism companies, procedures and appointments can be made through these brokers. This does not guarantee safety and security; there is currently no organization enforcing standards among providers. When you travel abroad you need insurance, assurances and back up plans, this is even more important when you are availing of medical services in a foreign country. The bottom line, have all the necessary information and be certain the pros of your trip outweigh the cons. If in doubt and something doesn’t feel right, proceed with caution or not at all.
PDF offering information on medical tourism from the World Health Organization