Medical Tourism: Is it Safe?2 min read
Some travel so they can lie on a beach or visit centuries-old architectural masterpieces. And then there are those who travel for medical care.
While this might seem odd to those who prefer the comfort and security of healthcare in their home country, for others it’s a more affordable way to get the procedure they need. In some cases, people choose to go abroad for medical treatment that isn’t available at home.
But we still have to ask—Is it safe?
Although there are certain risks that come along with having a medical procedure performed in a different country, it all depends upon the place you’re visiting and the procedure you’re undergoing. However, there are some general risks that should be taken into consideration.
If you’re traveling to a place where you’re not familiar with the local language, communication barriers may lead to misunderstandings about the procedure and care. Additionally, some of the standard safety precautions, such as sterilizing equipment, may not be up to par with what you’re familiar with at home. It’s not uncommon for doctors in underdeveloped countries to reuse needles, which can spread diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Donor blood also often goes unscreened in these areas, which can increase your risk of infection. Even the medication you receive might not meet the quality standards you’re used to at home.
And if something does go wrong or you’re unhappy with the results from a procedure, you may be out of luck—many practices in developing countries don’t carry malpractice insurance.
So, there are very clear risks when it comes to medical tourism.
But if you plan on moving forward despite these risks, there are certain ways you can improve your safety when traveling for medical care. These include:
- Discussing the risks with your physician at home.
- Reviewing the qualifications and credentials of the health care providers and the facility where the procedure will be performed.
- Getting a written agreement from the overseas medical providers. This should detail what anesthesia and medicine you’ll be getting during the procedure, costs, treatments, and supplies that will be used.
- Determining in advance what legal actions you can take if something goes wrong.
- Bringing copes of your medical records, as well as a list of any allergies you might have.
- Making copies of any prescriptions and medicines you take. Include brand names, generic names, manufacturers, and dosages.
- Arranging for follow-up care at home.
- Bringing home medical records from your procedure.
Additionally, some health organizations have developed guidelines for travelers seeking specific medical procedures in foreign countries. Be sure to review the safety checklists if you plan on undergoing cosmetic surgery or a dental procedure.
Image from the American Global University.