Daisy McCarty

Increase in Medical Tourism Raises Safety Questions

When most people travel, they do it for business, education, fun, or to spend time with relatives. However, every year more travelers are making their way to other countries for a very different reason – they need affordable medical treatment. Not all medical tourists travel for elective procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation, or dental veneers. According to statistics collected by healthtourism.com, the primary reason people travel to other countries for medical care is because they don’t have insurance. This means there are plenty of travelers going abroad for hip replacements, cardiovascular surgery, and other medically necessary procedures.

Potential Drawbacks of Medical Tourism

There is certainly no shortage of media coverage about medical tourism catastrophes. We hear stories about patients dying after liposuction or requiring tens of thousands of dollars in corrective surgery after a botched gastric bypass. Not everyone has a bad experience when seeking medical care abroad. However, there are some factors that make problems more likely:

Difficulty assessing a doctor’s credentials and references – Just like in the U.S., there are plenty of other countries where anyone with a medical license can advertise plastic surgery services regardless of their level of training. Add in a foreign language, and it becomes even more difficult to research a doctor’s actual credentials effectively.

Lack of appropriate follow up – Complications may not show up until days or weeks after a procedure. If you are traveling abroad for surgery, plan to stay as long as possible. That way, the surgeon who performed the operation (and knows your case better than anyone else) can help you through your recovery.

Inability to communicate effectively – This is where things start to get really tricky. When you’re going under the knife, your doctor needs to know about any health conditions (such as diabetes) that could complicate a surgery. After the procedure, you could be served hospital food – which is probably awful no matter where you go! If you have a food allergy, you might need to double check with an orderly about what’s on the menu. Or, you might need to notify a staff member about pain or discomfort that could be a sign of a complication.

What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risks

If you decide to become a medical tourist, how can you prepare for the types of conversations you expect to have about your health? Learn a set of useful phrases specifically geared toward health concerns to increase your chances of a good outcome. A doctor who caters to medical tourists is likely to speak some English. But it never hurts to have the ability to communicate more effectively about your medical history and any symptoms you may experience after the procedure. Plus, if you are staying at a local hotel during your recovery period, being able to talk about your health needs with hotel staff using non-technical language is essential.

Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama are the most common destinations for Americans seeking treatment abroad. So, a Spanish version of the Rx:The Freedom to Travel Language Series audio book or Iphone /ipad app might be just the tool to help equip you for a well planned medical encounter.