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Considering medical travel? Let’s talk about how to prepare

Knowing what you want

An estimated 11 million patients worldwide cross borders each year for a medical treatment. In 2016, more than 200,000 Brits and are expected to leave the UK for medical purposes as well as over a million Americans. Why is this important? Because you are not alone. Medical travel is a multi-billion dollar global healthcare market and people are choosing to go abroad for a number of reasons including better quality, shorter wait times,and lower-costs.

An estimated 12 million patients worldwide cross borders each year seeking medical treatments that are not accessible or affordable in their home countries.

An estimated 12 million patients travel abroad each year seeking medical treatments that are not accessible or affordable in their home countries.

If you are one of the millions who have decided to go abroad for medical travel (or are thinking about it) then it is important to prepare. Firstly, what do you want done? This is obvious, but medical travel covers a full spectrum of medical services. Most popular is cosmetic surgery. Typically not covered by insurance, cosmetic surgery ranges from cosmetic dentistry and hair transplants to breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and liposuction. Other non-cosmetic treatments include LASIK eye surgery, fertility treatment (IVF), bariatric surgery, and orthopedic surgery. In the early stages it is also important to:

  • Talk to your local physician/healthcare provider
  • Ask people who have travelled abroad for medical treatment about their experiences (positive and negative)
  • Read patient reviews and testimonials
  • Look for medical tourism in the media and press

Find Out Why More Brits Are Choosing Medical Travel 

Once you know what you want, the next question is- where? Choosing the right country can seem daunting , but it doesn’t have to be. Start by asking yourself, how long do you want to be away from home? How far are you prepared to travel? How flexible is your work schedule? Will you have to travel alone, or will a close friend or family member be able to join you?

Selecting your medical travel destination

On average, medical travel saves patients 30-80% on the cost of their medical procedure or treatment. So ask yourself, what is your main priority? Is it finding the lowest price and saving the most money? Or is it finding the highest quality? For most, the goal is to find the best price without compromising the quality of care.

Standards, costs, and areas of expertise vary by country. In Central Europe, countries like the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary have excellent reputations for low cost dentistry and LASIK eye surgery. In Western Europe, Spain is popular for its specialized and affordable IVF treatments, whereas Belgium is known for obesity surgery. For patients travelling from the UK, Canada or the United States, Europe still offers the quickest, cheapest flights and accommodation. In Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia are popular destinations amongst travellers from Australia and New Zealand. Regardless if you prefer a nearby European city, or enjoy the idea of recovering in an exotic destination, the appeal of a destination should never outweigh the importance of quality and safety. Each country has its advantages and drawbacks. Other important questions to consider include:

  • Is your treatment or procedure available in that country
  • Is English widely spoken?
  • What are the health safety standards and how strictly are they enforced?
  • Where can I find the best prices without compromising quality of care?
  • What are the average flight and accommodation prices?
  • Is there a best time of year to go? (consider the weather, high tourist season, cheapest flights)
Full service platforms save time and act as an advisor and intermediary, putting you in direct contact with the clinics, dentists, and surgeons.

Full service platforms save time and act as an advisor and intermediary, putting you in direct contact with the clinics, dentists, and surgeons.

Finding the right clinic for you

After deciding on the right country, the next step is selecting the right clinic. This is when research is key. Everything from treatment costs and convenience, to credentials and experience of the staff. If this seems overwhelming- that’s because it can be. Although some patients decide to go this step alone, millions use an online medical travel platform or agency to help. This saves valuable time during the decision-making process and elevates the headache and stress of doing research on your own. Services like this do not stand as a middleman, but rather act as a resource, putting you in direct contact with the clinics, dentists, and surgeons, allowing your questions and concerns to be answered by the professionals. What questions should you ask your potential dentist or surgeon?

  • What is their educational and professional background? How many years have they been in practice?
  • What professional memberships and qualifications do they hold?
  • How often do they perform your procedure, do they specialize in a particular area?
  • What is the expected recovery time, and how soon after can you fly home?

Much of this information is readily available on a trusted medical platform, as well as clinic licensing and accreditation. If you are unsure, memberships and associations to look for include the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), and European Association of Plastic Surgeons (EURAPS). If a cosmetic surgeon is trained in the UK they are likely members of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) or the General Medical Council (GMC). If trained in the USA, look for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Although accreditation is important, it does not guarantee the clinic adheres to the national and international standards, or the surgeon’s quality of work.

You may also want to ask: what is the clinics success rate? Can you be put in touch with past patients? How long is your estimated recovery time and what are your limitations after the surgery? Is it recommended that  a friend or family accompany you?

Ultimately, you should feel trust, understanding and a good chemistry between yourself and your surgeon or dentist. No question or concern should be left unanswered before making a commitment.

The Final Steps

Medical travellers often take advantage of being abroad, adding several days to the beginning or end of their trip to enjoy the country.

Medical travellers are taking advantage of being abroad and adding several days to the beginning or end of their trip to enjoy the country.

Once you’ve spoken to your surgeon or dentist and decided on a clinic, the final step is to book a date. If you go through a medical platform, they will help you arrange your flights, accommodation and transportation upon arrival. For patients getting cosmetic dentistry or LASIK surgery, recovery time is often 48 hours or less. For patients getting bariatric surgery or breast augmentation, recovery time can be weeks. This is important when deciding how long you want to (need to) stay in the country vs. how much recovery time you’d like to spend recovering at home. A recent medical traveller gave this advice after her breast augmentation in Prague, Czech Republic:

“Regardless of your surgery, take at least a day to be a tourist and enjoy yourself, and an additional 2-3 days (depending on your procedure) of recovery and make your travel back home more comfortable.”

It is perfectly normal to take advantage of what the country has to offer. This may include sightseeing, leisure activities and exploring the local culture and history. Whether your travelling alone or with someone, you may want to allow yourself some time pre or post surgery to relax and enjoy the experience of being abroad.

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Resource: Treatment Guide: TreatmentAbroad.com

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