Medical tourism is an increasingly growing trend amongst travellers on a gap year. If you are considering having any treatment done as part of your travels, then here is everything you need to know before you go.
For a long time, the only time backpackers and travellers would ever see the inside of a hospital was when they came a cropper from having too many whisky buckets or after contracting some strange tropical lurgy, but recently there has been a surge in backpackers all over the world taking at least part of their trips to get elective surgeries or some form of medical treatment. Some are even basing entire trips around it and taking the time out to recuperate afterwards.
This trend is called medical tourism, and it has exploded in recent years into a multi billion pound industry.
Medical tourism is essentially any type of travel where people travel specifically for medical treatment, or get treatment as a part of their longer travels. Everything from major surgery to dentistry to body enhancements, basically any elective treatment in fact can and is sought after by travellers.
It isn’t as easy as walking into a clinic and getting some work done though, if you really want to get elective medical treatment when you travel, there are a few things you need to know and questions you should ask first. The CDC and the NHS in the UK are excellent sources of information to do your research, but here are the basics.
- Think carefully about the cost, elective treatments are usually covered by yourself alone unless it is part of a reciprocal agreement with the NHS and the EU, but even then you may be expected to bare the brunt of the expenses up front.
- Not all medical tourism is created equally, and standards do vary around the world. Many countries such as the UK, Singapore, the US and Europe will obviously have standards held up to international guidelines. Not every country will. Do your own research first and look at where you want to be treated.
- Some countries such as Singapore or Malaysia are popular because they allow for long recuperation times in relative luxury at relatively low cost compared to other countries such as the USA or Europe.
- You should also check the qualifications of the staff and standards of care judged by regulatory bodies at any clinic or facility you want work done.
- Think about the language barrier too, will the facility have staff that speak your language fluently, or do you speak theirs? Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings during the after care and you don’t want to be calling for pain relief only to receive an extra jelly cup.
- Have thorough consultations beforehand to discuss your treatment and ask any questions you may have. Obviously the level of procedure will dictate how many you need, but at a bare minimum you want to be talking to the clinic at least a month or two before hand.
- You will need to determine exactly what the procedure itself and all of the after care will entail, how long you should expect to recuperate afterwards, any risks associated with the procedure and what to do about travel before and after. This should include any activities to avoid such as sunbathing or drinking alcohol.
- You should also have a written contract detailing all the fees and every treatment, equipment, supplies and associated care that those fees cover.
- Include in that contract details of what legal action can be taken in the event of something going wrong (the standard associated risks usually won’t be covered automatically).
- Make sure you have copies of all your medical records, past medical history and any medications you are on, and obtain a copy of all new medical records from your procedure after you have had it done.
- Depending on the procedure itself, arrange for follow up care or a check up either when you get home, or back at the clinic you had the procedure at an agreed time after you have had the work done.
There are obviously many risks associated with having any kind of treatment done when travelling, but with the right knowledge and research a lot of that can be mitigated beforehand.
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