medical tourism? what's it all about?
July 31, 2013 9:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in exploring medical tourism for a few procedures (some significant dental work, breast reduction, hair removal), but I don't know where to start. Please help me learn more about this trend.

I'm not nervous about undergoing procedures themselves or traveling, but more nervous about getting myself into something terrible that leaves me worse off than I started. How do I find reputable people/places where I can get things taken care of under good, reasonably comfortable care? Have you gone to places abroad for any of these procedures? What are costs like? Accommodations? How long did it take?

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posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I saw on 60-Minutes that Medical Tourism to India is really popular. It's attractive because the medical folks speak English, it's affordable and there are resorts where you can rest up from your procedures.

I think people in Europe head to Poland for cosmetic stuff. Brazil is another popular destination.

So that answers some of the starting questions. Now, how do you evaluate the claims? Not so sure about that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2013

No idea how legit this group is, but there is an Association for Medical Tourism.

This article from the Harvard Gazette also has some really interesting information.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2013

If it were me, I would come up with a list of cities, maybe five or seven, that are known for medical tourism. I would then google around for U.S. "ex-pat" email groups/web sites, and post or ask to post a request for recommendations and referrals for procedure X.

I would also ask U.S. experts on procedure X (medical experts or patient organizations) for referrals. For hair removal, I might also contact one of the major U.S. transgender advocacy organizations and ask for referrals.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:11 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

We went to Thailand for our honeymoon in 2011 and got extremely high quality dental work for a fraction of the cost on our last two days in Bangkok. The instruments were top-notch, the office was decorated with orchids and fountains, and our dentist had graduated from UC-Berkeley. I got a root canal and wisdom teeth removed for about $200. He didn't even put me under general anesthesia, so I walked out of the facility on the second day missing 2 wisdom teeth and still felt well enough to go sightseeing. In the US I would have surely had a more costly, more invasive and less enjoyable experience.

Some Americans were absolutely scandalized that we'd get dental work done in Thailand*, mainly because they assumed it was less than a first world country (wrong, especially in Bangkok) and that their dentists were somehow sup-par. This assumption couldn't be further from the truth.

*others were scandalized we'd get dental work done on our HONEYMOON, but that's the decision you make when you live in a first world country that actually does have dreadful health care.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:03 AM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]

Re: reduction, I can't answer the tourism question but would like to refer you to this excellent resource, where many members are not US-ians. It's a good place, once you're past the formalities of joining, to learn an awful lot more about reductions that you'll be glad you knew once you have one; and to get support and answers when you do have one. You may even be able to find a foreign MD referral on there as well. Best of luck.
posted by Dashy at 11:08 AM on July 31, 2013

I had an abdominoplasty four months ago (okay, a tummy tuck) and I noticed on the forums that lots of women go overseas for this procedure and other cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries.'s breast reduction reviews might be a place to at least get info on doctors and personal stories.
posted by pyjammy at 11:12 AM on July 31, 2013

I don't know where you are, but along the US/mexico border it's very common to head south for dental work. Some of the dental clinics even provide transportation from US cities as a daytrip, even from hours away -- so accommodations would be in the US. How comfortable this would be depends on what dental work you need done, I wouldn't want to sit in a van for a few hours after having several teeth extracted, but if you are getting fillings or cosmetic procedures it's probably fine.

I've heard that it's much cheaper to get dental work done further south of the border, but you won't find dentists who structure their practice around English-speaking patients.

If you don't know the extent of dental work you're going to need, be sure to go someplace where you can easily be seen by a dental surgeon. Laws on anesthesia vary, some things that are in-office procedures in the US need to be done in hospitals elsewhere. This might make scheduling difficult.

If you are able to, get a dental checkup with xray from a dentist who is sympathetic to your financial considerations before making travel plans.

No personal experience with this, I started looking into it and decided not to travel for other reasons.
posted by yohko at 5:01 PM on July 31, 2013

I had some minor elective surgery done at Sukumvit Hospital in Bangkok about ten years ago, and I can't say enough good things about the place. The staff is excellent, friendly, and English-speaking, and the quality of care is as good or better as any I'd expect in the States.
posted by bac at 6:07 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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