Traveling Abroad for Medical Treatment

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Traveling Abroad for Medical Treatment

Medical tourism refers to the practice of travelling to a destination other than where once resides, in order to receive healthcare treatment (s).  This term came to be because of the frequency that many U.S. citizens travel seeking less expensive surgical and dental treatment while traveling on vacation overseas (Dalen, 2018).

It goes in two directions. For people seeking specialized treatment offered only in highly developed technological medical centers, it usually means people travel from less-developed countries to more developed countries in order to obtain it. This does not imply that the less developed countries do not offer quality healthcare. Many countries, including Costa Rica which offers some of the best healthcare worldwide, provides private and public healthcare systems that are continuously being upgraded.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Costa Rica among the top 25 economies with the most efficient healthcare (Miller & Lu, 2018). In fact, the authors also conclude that “Americans aren’t getting their medicals money’s worth” as the “U.S Health System ranked among the least efficient in the world, before, and during the first year of Obama Care” therefore, the U.S. is the most expensive country for treatment. (Miller & Lu, 2018).

In fact, Patients Beyond Borders lists Costa Rica first on its top destinations. There are many reasons why Costa Rica is so popular with medical tourists: it’s a beautiful, peaceful country, it is affordable, easy communication due to bilingual medical personnel, and a great medical reputation. Costa Rica also boasts 3 internationally accredited private hospitals: CIMA, Clínica Bíblica and Clínica Católica.

It is important to clarify who accredits private hospitals internationally, and that is the Joint Commission International (JCI).  The JCI identifies, measures and shares best practices in quality and patient safety with the world. Their mission “is to improve the safety and quality of care in the international community through the provision of education, publications, consultation, and evaluation services.” (Joint Commission International, 2018).

What is it that urged more than 1.4 million U.S citizens (Dalen, 2018) to travel abroad for medical tourism in 2017 alone? Less expensive healthcare. The reason other countries charge less is because physician and other healthcare workers’ wages are lower, and malpractice insurance is substantially lower as well (Dalen, 2018).

The high cost of healthcare isn’t the only factor influencing U.S citizens to travel abroad: low spectrum on insurance coverage and long waiting periods for procedures weigh in too.  Easy and affordable travel encourage people, as patients and their loved ones feel at ease knowing that quality care is offered.

Some U.S. citizens return to their native countries where healthcare is reliable and affordable, or some of those who took a plunge into medical tourism in the past, even abstain from paying insurance all together, knowing that they can have their needs taken care off at a more affordable price. (Freedman, 2018).

The Medical Tourism Association (Global Healthcare Resources & International Healthcare Research Center 2017), found that the factors that determine the country one chooses for medical tourism are the following:

  •  63% Safety of the destination
  • 10.2% Tourism Attractions
  • 10.2% Similar Language/Culture
  • 16.3% Appropriate match to client requirements, ease of travel, comfort, clinical care, no language barriers, medical facilities, regulations

The Medical Tourism Association (Global Healthcare Resources & International Healthcare Research Center 2017), found that the primary characteristic that a patient looks for in a healthcare provider are:

  • 44.9% Doctor/Physician background, experience and reputation.
  • 32.7% Hospital Background experience and reputation.
  • 14.3% Accreditation
  • 8.1% Cost of procedure.

Whether you are seasoned or an inexperienced medical tourism traveler, there are a few things to take in consideration

  • Any medical procedure has its benefits and risks. Make sure you are informed what they are.
  • Read up, get informed. You can reduce your risks enormously by looking up your doctor and checking to see if he or she is qualified (and certified) to perform the medical treatment you are seeking. It also helps to find hospitals that are accredited by Joint Commission International. This way you can be sure that quality is guaranteed
  • Give yourself time to heal. Make sure you stay somewhere where you will be comfortable. Analyze if the treatment you are getting is compatible with the vacation activities you wish indulge in.
  • You may involve your doctor at home, for post-up care
  • S. consulates can help travelers locate health care providers, facilities, contact family member in the U.S, and assist with wire transfers of funds. The U.S. State Department Web site ( also contains a list of companies that offer travel insurance.
  • Bring a letter from your doctor if you are being treated for a chronic condition, listing your diagnosis and current medications (including the generic names for the drugs and dosage, since brand names vary by country).
  • Be sure the information in your passport about whom to contact in an emergency is correct and up-to-date.

Medical tourism has been around for ages, dating back to the Greeks, who conceived the first all-inclusive health tourism system in Epidauria.

If there is any stigma associated with traveling for medical treatment you can’t get or afford in your own country, then please analyze who that stigma is coming from. What is the level of education, how many countries and how many cultures has this group pf people experienced? It may sound cruel to say, but many U.S citizens don’t believe there are industrialized, modern places outside of their nation. It’s like the modern would ceases to exist beyond their borders.

Every country, every culture has something good to offer. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of it for your own benefit.