Traveling for medical treatment? Top tips - GO.CARE Blog
Traveling for medical treatment? Top tips
Author: Trâm Võ
Review Date: August 5, 2018 | Last Modified: October 1, 2018
Traveling for medical treatment? Top tips

You need to get these things clear before taking a medical trip. GO.CARE will help you to have a more effective healthcare abroad.

What is medical tourism?

Medical tourists are patients who seek (further) treatment for their health condition in a foreign country. There are several possible reasons why a patient would choose to have their condition treated overseas. Examples of these reasons include:

  • The patient may be financially incapable of acquiring local treatment if the patient is uninsured or if their health insurance does not cover the cost of the specific procedure(s) that they require.
  • Certain medical procedures may have a (very) long waitlist that requires the patient to wait an insurmountably long period of time.
  • Certain medical procedures may simply be unavailable in the home country of the patient.

Tips for an effective medical trip

In most cases, health conditions that require medical tourism are relatively severe ones. Traveling with such conditions is an extremely difficult task on its own, let alone going to a foreign country to have it treated. Below are various tips that patients should think about before and during their journey:

1. Having enough information

This is perhaps the most crucial part of the entire journey. Equipping yourself with adequate amounts of knowledge and information is important when you are traveling anywhere, and it is even more so if you are traveling to treat your health condition.

At the very least, you should always properly research the following factors of your journey:

♦  The procedure

If you are travelling in order to acquire a certain medical procedure, which is usually the case, make sure you thoroughly research about it. Before you embark on your journey, make sure you know at least the following factors about the procedure:

  • What the procedure actually is, what you will have to undergo during and after the procedure, and if there are any possible risks and after-effects of the procedure, or whether or not you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.  You should always consult a doctor in your country beforehand to learn more about this.
  • Any possible follow-up care that you may need after the procedure (e.g. physical therapy)
  • How much time the entire journey is going to take.

♦  The hospital

You should always thoroughly research the hospital in which you are planning to acquire treatment. Before going on your journey, you should always know at least the following factors about the hospital:

  • AccreditationsThe hospital should at least meet standards that have been locally or internationally recognized. These standards usually help ensure that the hospital is fully committed to following medical rules, guidelines, and ethics. Specific accreditations that you may look for include JCI, JCAHO, ISO, etc.
  • AwardsAny award that the hospital has won in the past is also a reliable indicator of their quality.
  • Affiliation: The medical affiliation of a hospital can also indicate its quality. Examples of affiliations that have been recognized and accredited include Harvard Medical School, Cleveland Clinic, and John Hopkins.
  • Facility and equipmentThis is to make sure that the hospital has adequate facility and pieces of equipment to help treat your condition and accommodate your needs.
  • FeedbackFeedbacks from previous patients of the same hospital or, if possible, from those who have undergone the same specific procedure that you are going to get can also indicate the quality of the hospital you are considering.
  • StatisticsYou should also have a look at the previous statistics of the hospital, which are its success rate, inpatients, outpatients, etc.
  • The doctorsAside from researching about the hospital, you should also know about the doctor(s) and/or surgeon(s) from whom you will be receiving treatment. It is important to make sure that they have been properly trained and certified.
  • LanguageThis may seem obvious, but you must also make sure that the hospital staffs, especially its doctors, can communicate in a mutually understood language. If the doctors themselves cannot do this, make sure that there is a translator available to help you.

♦  The country

Aside from knowing the basics about the country, you should also base your choice of country on the following factors:

  • Quality and specialization: While most countries do meet common healthcare standards, some countries may specifically stand out in certain fields. Some countries may have a reputation for its cosmetic surgeries, while others may be known for its world-class orthopedic procedures.
  • Distance: Ideally, you should always consider countries that are closer in terms of distance to your home country. In many cases, the patient may not be capable of traveling very far or spending too many hours on a plane (without specialized care). Moreover, neighboring countries tend to have, to a certain extent, the same weather condition as your own country, which alleviates having to deal with unfamiliar weather conditions.
  • Cost: While the quality of the procedure itself should be compromised at no cost, the costs of the journey is still an important factor to take into consideration. Aside from the medical costs, you might have to think about other expenses such as those for transportation (e.g. plane tickets to get to the country, and train/bus/taxi fares to get around in the country), accommodation (e.g. hotel/motel costs), and general living (e.g. eating costs), which may differ between countries.

2. Keep contact with your local doctor

It is highly recommended that you keep in contact with your local doctor during the entire process. Make sure they are updated on all the details of your treatments. Even if you have already arrived in your destination country, your local doctor’s help may be needed in terms of medical reports and consultations. Moreover, your local doctor may have to coordinate with the doctors in the foreign hospital in order to provide you with the most suitable course of treatment.

3. Have all your important documents with you

Before traveling abroad for any reason, make sure you have all the needed documents with you and in order. Moreover, you should always have a set of certified copies of those exact documents safe at home in case you lose any of them overseas.

When traveling overseas for medical treatment, make sure you have the following:

•  Previous medical records: You should bring any document you have that is related to any of your previously received treatments, including X-ray reports, immunization records, prescriptions, attestations from your doctors about any unusual drugs (e.g. narcotic-containing drugs) that you may be taking, and any other relevant health records. All of these records must be in your carry-on luggage to prevent loss and damage.

•  Any current medication: It is important that you continue taking any prescribed medication that you have already been taking even after arriving in the foreign country. You should not, in any case, stop taking your medications unless your doctor has specifically instructed you to do so. You should also check with the embassy or consulate of that country whether if the drugs you are planning to bring are legal in their country. All of the medications that you intend to bring should be kept in their original containers for them to be able to go through customs. Make sure you bring enough medications for your entire journey and their prescriptions in case you need to have them refilled. If you wear glasses, make sure you have and bring at least one spare set of glasses and, if possible, bring your eyeglass prescription to have a new pair crafted in case your original one breaks. All of the things listed above should be in your carry-on luggage to prevent loss and damage.

•  Passport and visa: These are essential for you to enter any country aside from your own. Make sure your passport is up to date (i.e. not expired) and that you have your visa. If you do not have a visa to enter that country, you may have to apply for one. Note that the procedures of visa application may be very complicated and can take up to months to complete in some cases, so you should, if possible, plan this ahead of time.

•  Credit cards, debit cards, and travelers’ checks: You should always have local currency, travelers’ checks and one or two major credit and debit cards. However, you should not bring unnecessary cards and excessive amounts of cash. Make sure you have a credit limit on your cards and that you have those limits noted down. You should also store their pin numbers and serial numbers on your travelers’ checks using code language. A copy of this information should be left at home for a trusted individual (e.g. a family member, a friend).

•  Insurance card: You should always bring your insurance card and a claim form in case you need them overseas.

4. Keep your important contacts at hand

When traveling overseas, you should always have access to certain contact information, which includes that of:

  • A trusted relative or friend that can help you in cases of emergency
  • The companion whom you are traveling 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

5. Be prepared for an extended stay

In most cases, you will have to stay in the country for some time before being able to go back to your home country. This period of time is mostly for you to be able to recover and for your condition to be observed post-treatment. You should keep this in mind if you are going to apply for a visa, as you may be inquired about your expected time of stay in the foreign country.

6. Bring a companion

It is highly recommended that you travel with a companion when going overseas for treatment. In many cases, the treatment that you have traveled for will leave you debilitated for some time before being able to function normally again. A traveling companion can provide you with the physical and mental support that you will likely need before, during, and after the journey.

7. Coordinate with your accommodation provider and the airport you are traveling to

In many cases, you should consider informing your hotel and airport of the medical procedure you are going to have, your current condition, and your expected condition post-treatment. This helps them better prepare for your needs and assist you along the journey.

8. Schedule your follow-up appointments

After you have had your treatment, you should inform your doctor at home and make appointments for follow-up checks when you get back. You should always have post-treatment surveillance, especially if the treatment was a surgery, regardless of how good you feel. In fact, you may be required to attend follow-up appointments for weeks or months after your treatment overseas.

GO.CARE will support you during your medical trip so that you can get your health treated and come back safely.

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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