8 Things you need to know before getting medical treatment abroad - GO.CARE Blog
8 Things you need to know before getting medical treatment abroad
Author: Trâm Võ
Review Date: August 5, 2018 | Last Modified: August 27, 2018
8 Things you need to know before getting medical treatment abroad

It’s not easy for every patient to take a medical trip for high quality and affordable price procedures. Therefore, when making a decision to get treatment abroad, you need to consider these following factors.

1. Know if it is the right choice

Before choosing to go abroad for treatment, you should consider your reasons as well as the pros and cons of the journey and the treatment itself carefully. You should also consult with the local doctor whom you have been seeing in order to know the potential risks associated with the treatment and if you are a suitable candidate for the treatment at all.

There can be one or more practical reasons why a patient would choose to have their medical treatment done overseas. These reasons include:

♦  Financial circumstances: It is commonly assumed that those who choose to have their treatment done abroad spend a fortune to have it done. While this is by no means false, many patients choose to do this because they are financially incapable of affording the treatment in their home country. This may be especially true for patients in developed countries such as the United States. For example, a gastric bypass procedure in the U.S costs 41.000 US dollars, but the same procedure would only cost 9.500 and 22.000 US dollars if it was done in India and Korea, respectively. Moreover, the financial burden can be all the more pronounced if the patient’s health insurance does not cover the costs of the specific procedure that they require.

♦  Insurmountably long waitlist: Certain medical procedures such as different types of surgeries may have a waitlist that is very long. In some cases, the patient simply just cannot afford to wait that long to get treated. This may, in turn, prompt the patient to choose medical tourism in order to get the treatment done on time.

♦  Unavailability or recent availability: Certain medical procedures can, sometimes, be unavailable in the country that the patient is living in. This, however, does not necessarily indicate that the country is incompetent in terms of medical services. In the United States, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only recently approved a hip resurfacing implant, while the same procedure has been carried out numerous times in other countries. This recentness of availability may also prompt patients to pursue overseas treatments, as foreign doctors may have had more experience performing the procedure that the patient currently requires than their local doctors.

2. Know the country

Before settling on a medical institute, you should have an idea of the countries from which you would like to choose a hospital. Your decision should be based on the following factors:

♦  The current conditions of the country: You should consider whether if the country and the region where the hospital is situated are safe to enter. In some rare cases, the area may be facing issues that can make your journey more problematic than it needs to be, especially since you are a foreigner. Additionally, you should also consider if the current weather conditions of the region you are planning to enter may be a bit new to you and prepare accordingly.

♦  Quality and specialization: Another thing to consider is if the country is specialized in or known for performing the procedure you need. While most countries do meet general healthcare standards, some countries may stand out when it comes to certain procedures. For example, a country may be known for its cosmetic surgeries, while another may have a reputation for its orthopedic procedures.

♦  Distance: You should also consider the actual distance between the country you are in and the country you are planning to travel to. If you are having a severe or debilitating condition, it may be in your best interest to choose a country that is close to the one you are currently in so as to avoid spending long hours on a plane.

3. Know the hospital

Choosing a medical institute in which your treatment will take place is extremely important, as this will decide the entire course of your treatment. Listed below are criteria on which you should base your choice of hospital:

♦  Accreditation: The medical institute should, at the very least, be locally or internationally recognized. This recognition comes in the form of accreditations designated by international accreditation bodies. These accreditations are reliable indicators of the service quality you can expect from the hospital. When you are doing your research on a medical institute, you can often find the information about any accreditation the institute has earned in the “About Us” section or other sections with similar context. Examples of reliable international accreditation bodies include:

  • The Joint Commission International (JCI)
  • The Canadian Organization for the Accreditation of Medical Institutions (CCHSA)
  • The Australian Council for Health System Standards (ACHS)
  • The Trent Accreditation Scheme (TAS)
  • The International Society for Quality in Health Care (ESQH)
  • The National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH)
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

♦  Affiliation: Hospitals affiliated with an internationally recognized medical affiliation also tend to be good hospitals. Examples of these medical affiliations are the Harvard Medical School, the Cleveland Clinic, and the John Hopkins.

♦  Facility, equipment, and technology: You should always make sure that the hospital is adequately equipped to support you before, during, and after the treatment you are going to have. You can also inquire about any new treatment method they may have, as good hospitals tend to keep their facility as up to date as possible. It is important that you also confirm with the hospital about any follow-up care you will be receiving, as you will likely need a post-treatment recovery period before being able to function normally again.

♦  Safety profile: As you go through a hospital website, make sure you also look for their safety profile, which should include their statistics, success rates, and other noteworthy occurrences. You should also look for feedbacks from previous patients who have been treated in the medical institute, particularly those who have undergone the same procedure you are about to have.

4. Know your doctors

In addition to choosing a hospital, you must have thorough knowledge of the people whose hand you will be in. When you are researching about a hospital, make sure you check the profile of their doctors, surgeons, and any other medical staffs that you think will be involved in your treatment. Before zeroing in on a hospital, you should confirm if their staffs have been properly trained, licensed, and are adequately qualified to carry out your treatment. You should also check if the doctor or surgeon has had previous experiences in performing the specific procedure you are going to have and, if possible, look for the results of those cases.

If the country is multicultural or it is not known to speak a language that you can, you should always check with the hospital if their staffs are going to be able to communicate with you in a mutually understood language. If the staffs are not able to do this, consider arranging (with the help of the hospital) an on-site translator to help you.

5. Know your expenses

Acquiring treatment overseas can be very costly, so you should carefully consider your financial condition and the possible expenses that you may have to pay for. Certain fees that you should be prepared to pay for include:

♦  Hospital fees: This includes the fees of the treatment procedure itself, the hospitalization fees, and possible medication fees. Never assume that the only hospital fee you will have pay is that of the treatment itself. Before you go, thoroughly inquire about possible hospital fees with the hospital themselves via emails or phone calls. When choosing between hospitals, you can compare the price range that they offer and choose the less expensive one as long as the healthcare quality does not decline accordingly.

♦  Traveling fees: This is for the plane ticket(s) to get to the country and for any other transportation fares you may have to pay when you have arrived in the country in order to get around. You should carefully think about your plane tickets if you are buying a return-ticket (i.e. a round-trip) beforehand, as you may need to stay in the foreign country longer than you expect. You should also remember that the prices of plane tickets to different countries are, most of the time, different.

♦  Accommodation fees: If you do not have a prepared place (e.g. a relative’s place) in which you can stay in the foreign country, you may have to stay at a hotel. Make sure you are prepared to pay for an extended stay, as you may have to stay in the country for quite some time after the treatment for recovery and post-treatment observation.

♦  Living fees: Remember that you will still need to spend some money in order to buy foods, drinks, and living necessities when you are abroad. You may even need to buy things like clothes and utensils when you are in the foreign country.

Before embarking on your journey, make sure you have some cash (preferably their local currency), one or two major credit or debit card(s), and travelers’ checks. You should refrain from being excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary cards, as they will make it harder for you to manage and can potentially be at risks of loss. You should also consider purchasing insurance before you go. If you do have them, make sure you bring your insurance card and claim forms in case you need them.  

6. Know your accommodation

Before going overseas, make sure you have your accommodations reserved and your schedule well planned ahead. You should be prepared for an extended stay post-treatment in order to give your body a chance to properly recover before heading home. Moreover, the hospital may ask that you stay for further observation before going home. If you are going to apply for a visa before going, you should think about the day on which you expect to go home, as you may be inquired about this information in the process of visa application.

You should also arrange with your accommodation provider and, if possible, the airport at which you will be arriving if you have any special needs and would like to request their assistance (e.g. requesting a wheelchair). When you make your reservation or booking, make sure you inform your accommodation provider and the airport of your condition and expected post-treatment condition if you think you will need their help.

7. Know your essentials

Before travelling anywhere, you should make sure you have your essential documents among other things prepared. You should also leave a copied set of the documents you are bringing at home and in the hands of someone you trust.

Before travelling abroad to acquire treatment, make sure you have at least the following:

♦  Previous medical records: You must bring any document that is relevant to your medical condition, including any X-ray report, immunization record, prescription, attestation from your doctors about any unusual drugs (e.g. narcotic-containing drugs) that you may be taking, and any other relevant health record.

♦  Any medication that you are taking: You must bring all the medications that you are currently taking with you, and make sure you bring enough of them for your entire journey. Additionally, you should also bring their prescriptions in case you need to have them refilled. You must not, for any reason, stop taking your medications unless your doctor has specifically instructed you to do so. You should keep them in their original containers so as to avoid being questioned by customs. If you are wearing glasses, you should bring a spare and your eyeglass prescription in case you need to have a pair crafted on the spot.

♦  Passport and visa: Before travelling, make sure your passport is up to date and that you have a visa if the country you are going to requires it, which is usually the case. If you do not currently have a visa, you may have to apply for one before going. Note that the process of a visa application may take up to months in many cases, which is why you should plan your trip early ahead of time.

8. Know your contacts

Before going overseas, make sure you have the information of your important contacts written down and, if possible, memorized. These contacts should include:

  • A trusted relative or friend that can help you in cases of emergency
  • The companion whom you are travelling with
  • The hospital you are going to
  • The accommodation in which you are going to stay
  • Your local doctor
  • Your employer
  • The international helpline of your bank or credit card company
  • Your insurance provider(s)
  • The consulates of your country in the country you are visiting

If you found all of these problems are too hard to solve, you just need to contact GO.CARE and we will help you.

5 tips to choose a medical tourism facility. https://www.getholistichealth.com/7595/5-tips-to-choose-a-medical-tourism-facility/. Accessed May 2nd 2018

Medical tourism tips. https://www.healthbase.com/hb/pages/medical-tourism-tips.jsp. Accessed May 2nd 2018

15 tips for medical tourism. https://afktravel.com/77230/15-tips-medical-tourism/. Accessed May 2nd 2018

5 best medical tourism tips for planning your trip. https://skymedicus.com/news-list-item?r=AIACVI4WGH&send_to=%2Fnews-list-view. Accessed May 2nd 2018

6 tips to make your medical tourism experience better. http://medicaltourismassociation.com/blog/6-tips-to-make-your-medical-tourism-experience-better/. Accessed May 2nd 2018

Tips for medical travellers. http://medicaltourism.com/Forms/Lasvegas/tipsformedicaltravelers.aspx. Accessed May 2nd 2018

Medical tourism tips for Americans thinking of overseas treatment. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/medical-tourism-tips-advantages-disadvantages_n_1561408.html. Accessed May 2nd 2018