Foreign tongue depressors
August 5, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Let's say you have medical condition ABC that can be treated with XYZ and you live in the United States. How does one become a medical tourist, defined by going outside the country for XYZ? It seems unlikely your doctor will acquiesce to sending you out of the country to get treatment with another doctor. How does the process begin, where patients can connect with the right doctors and facilities to arrange treatment? How do people evaluate the quality of treatment and follow-up care? Are there medial tourism "groups" that specialize in particular health issues? If you did this, what was your experience like and what recommendations would you have for issues or "gotchas" to look out for?

(I'm hoping for answers that are more than broad summaries of existing Wikipedia articles, going towards specifics and personal experiences. Thanks.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Did you see this post last week? I think that hits a bunch of the basics you're looking for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out last Sunday's NY Times Magazine. They had an article on medical tourism.
posted by citygirl at 12:02 PM on August 5, 2013

Response by poster: That's a great article and thanks for linking it. It doesn't address my questions, but thanks for linking to it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:18 PM on August 5, 2013

Typically you arrange through a service to travel to another country. Bring all your tests, etc with you.

The doctors there will assess and evaluate you and recommend whatever course of treatment, surgery etc.

So let's say you need a knee replacement and your local doctor is recommending X, Y and Z be performed at his hospital.

You can go for a second opinion, to Thailand or India. Fly there, meet the doctor and arrange for the treatment.

Basically I doubt very seriously ANY US or Canadian Doctor is going to say, "Okay Blazecock, here's your films, and your test results, now call me when you get to Goa to let me know how you're doing."

It's done outside of your regular practitioner.

There are forums for sussing out these things. Lonely Planet has one. International Travel Health Journal has one aimed at the industry, it can be enlightening. Here's a website that may provide you with a starting place. They have guides, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2013

What Ruthless Bunny said. It's like going to another doctor for a second opinion/treatment without the approval or even knowledge of your first physician, only in another country. You kind of have to do this on a wing and a prayer.

South Korea and Thailand are two popular destinations for medical tourists, and quite a few hospitals have multi-lingual informational hotlines. This page, for instance, is a medical tourism website set up by the Tourism Authority of Thailand that gives you the addresses and phone numbers of various hospitals in the country. And this is its South Korean counterpart. I know that for plastic surgery, several South Korean hospitals actually hold consultations in different Asian countries, but these don't seem to take place in the United States, probably due to legal reasons rather than lack of demand. Patients either attend these consultations before making travel arrangements (these types of hospitals tend to offer packages and deals, including airport pickup), or fly-in for a consultation before undergoing surgery the next day or so.

As for evaluating the quality of treatment and follow-up care, you can really only rely on the reviews of members of medical tourism boards or testimonials that appear on the hospital websites, though YMMV, caveat emptor as always. Many doctors in Asia received their medical degrees from reputable universities in the West, so this is probably something that you'd want to pay attention to because they will be able to speak English with some fluency, though ideally, you'd want to be in a country where you'd be able to communicate easily with the nurses and hospital staff as well. Medical facilities in Asian capital cities with high developmental indices are also likely to be on the cutting edge of things.
posted by peripathetic at 3:45 PM on August 5, 2013

I helped a friend with some of the logistics for going overseas for a procedure. Me-mail me if you want, as I'm having trouble being vague enough for comfort while still actually saying something.
posted by hoyland at 4:51 PM on August 5, 2013

It seems unlikely your doctor will acquiesce to sending you out of the country to get treatment with another doctor.

It seems like you are thinking of this in terms of your doctor referring you for treatment elsewhere.

You get a referral to a different doctor if that doctor only sees patients by referral, or because your PPO or HMO or insurance requires a referral.

The doctor you see outside the US is not going to require a referral from your regular doctor, and you are probably traveling because your insurance won't cover XYZ in the first place. Thus, no referral is needed.

You have a legal right to get copies of your medical records, so you will want to get copies of those.
posted by yohko at 8:39 PM on August 5, 2013

I've mentioned Bumrungrad hospital in Thailand a few times. I've had occasion to use it twice (as an outpatient only), and each time I was very impressed with it. What I really like about their website is that they have a medical costs calculator that gives you a feel for what the final cost will be. It should give you a basis for comparison, no matter where you end up going.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:22 AM on August 6, 2013

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