Medical tourism back surgery is a consideration for many patients who need (or feel they need) spinal surgery, but can not afford, or do not have access to, the chosen procedure in their home country.
Although health insurance covers most back surgery procedures, some patients choose experimental or alternative operative techniques which may not receive full or any coverage under their policy. Additionally, some patients may not enjoy the benefit of health insurance at all. These are the patients who generally have the most to gain from medical tourism.
This essay examines the growing trend towards embracing medical tourism in the back and neck pain treatment industries.
Medical tourism is the practice of traveling to undergo healthcare treatment in another geographic location. While it is common for some patients to travel within their own country to receive specialized care, this is usually not the true definition of medical touring. Instead, the practice describes travel to another county to receive a comparable quality procedure at a much reduced price.
The typical medical tourist is from a wealthy developed nation, such as The United States, The UK, Canada or Japan, although many also come from certain Middle Eastern countries, as well. The usual destination is a locale with a well developed medical infrastructure, quality doctors and support staff, but a far lower cost of healthcare.
Medical travel can also be performed to allow patients from less developed countries to receive better quality care in a larger and more innovative medical market. This is less common, but still an important consideration for patients who simply can not find the care they desire locally, at any cost.
The reason why medical services are lower priced in many locations may be a combination of various factors including:
Lower medical insurance and malpractice costs can keep procedural costs down,
Lower salaries paid to healthcare workers will help minimize operative costs.
A generally lower cost of living and doing business will save a patients lots of money.
Travel for medical care can save a patient a large amount of money, since the cost of procedures may be 50% to 80% less than a comparable operation in their own country.
Doctors who offer medical tour packages will usually help the patient set up the entire trip and will provide them with far more than just medical care. They will arrange transportation, hotel and even a vacation recovery in most instances. These are the benefits of the medical tourism industry.
The downside of foreign medical care must also be closely weighed
when making a choice to travel for back surgery. Here are some of the
many potential cons of medical travel:
You may need to return to the doctor several times for follow-up care.
If anything goes wrong, such as complications with your surgery, you may be stuck in a foreign country with a less developed medical system and limited treatment options.
Government healthcare regulations may be lax, unenforced or non-existent in some countries. This can be very risky for a patient.
Some medical tours are pure scams, designed to cheat patients and sometimes these deals end very badly for the poor swindled soul, including serious injury or death in rare cases.
Often, the quality of care is sub-standard or lacks the technology or know-how of medical providers in the best developed healthcare markets.
Acclimating to foreign air, food and water can, in itself, be hazardous to your health, presenting greater risk for infection during surgery.
I have written much about the fascinating topic of medical travel in my second book, Truly Beautiful: The Mind/Body/Spirit Approach to Plastic Surgery. As a seasoned traveler myself, I think medical touring can be fantastic, but can also be incredibly intimidating and sometimes downright dangerous.
Although there are seemingly countless numbers of medical tourism locations at the present time (and more popping up every day), I warn patients to consider their choices carefully, as not all countries are considered safe or ideal for traveling to receive major surgery.
I highly recommend Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore for virtually all procedures and all patients. Other popular destinations include Mexico, Costa Rica (for US and Canadian patients), India, Hong Kong, Cuba, Columbia, Brazil (noted as being particularly risky), Turkey, Israel and Brunei.