Monday, November 17, 2008

Medical tourism - what do you think?

I've heard about medical tourism but I don't know anyone who has participated in this. Do you?

South Korea is building its own medical tourism industry to offer some competition to other countries, like India and Thailand. The South Korean resort island, Jeju, is welcoming Chinese and Japanese tourists who are taking a break from touring to have a little surgery done.

What some people may be surprised to hear is that the surgery is not only cosmetic but much more serious procedures, like heart bypasses and spinal surgeries. Joint replacements, particularly hips, are a big draw as well.

Who are these medical tourists?

The people range from patients from the United States who can't afford treatment at home to those from socialized medicine countries, like Canada or the United Kingdom, who don't want to wait.

What are the drawbacks?

The appeal of having surgery in such an environment is obvious. These hospitals are catering to you so you get the best of everything. In some places, transportation is arranged from the airport to the hospital, with luxury rooms waiting for you and your companion. Special diets and comfort amenities are all part of the tourism experience. But what about the drawbacks?

Many of these countries don't have the malpractice protection that countries like United States, which could cause financial difficulties if there are problems. Also, doctors in countries where the patients live are warning that if anything happens as a result of the surgery in another country, the cost of treating the complications become the burden of the home country.

What about payment?

For sure, these out-of-country surgeries are not cheap. But, in some places, the government is actually able to help you. In Canada, provincial health boards will provide you with some of the costs if you can prove that the procedure you are going for is not available in Canada or the waiting list is excessively long and could cause irreparable harm.

So, what do you think? Would you do something like this if it was available to you?

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The Frogblogger said...

It is certainly big business here in Thailand. The recently published "Opportunities in Thailand Tourism" estimated that patients from abroad - for all types of treatment - would reach two million per annum by 2010 (mind you, the report came out before the credit crisis and global economic turndown began to bite). On the other hand, certain personal experiences - such as the father's perspective I blogged on of the standard Thai maternity hospital a couple of days ago - might put some people off!

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Anonymous said...

post from kesha said...

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