Between health and wallet: the pros and cons of medical tourism - ForumDaily
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Health or Wallet: Pros and Cons of Medical Tourism

Every year, between 150,000 to 320,000 Americans travel to other countries to receive medical services. The most common treatments abroad include dental procedures, infertility treatments, and plastic surgeries, which are often not covered by health insurance in the United States.

Photo: Cayra Clinic

Medical tourism has become such a common practice for Americans that State Department и Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sections on their websites devoted to it. No wonder! Medical treatment in the US can be pricey even with insurance, and the lack of it is a sure way to become bankrupt. That is not just a figure of speech or exaggeration: 66,5% bankruptcies in the US are directly caused by medical expenses. Thus, healthcare is the main cause of bankruptcy in the United States. medical expenses. So healthcare is the leading cause of poverty in America.

We asked Salah Ay, the head of the Ай, director of the Turkish clinic Cayra Clinicspecializing in treating foreigners what medical care US residents could expect abroad and what bonuses and risks were associated with medical tourism. The clinic had been providing medical services for tourists from different countries for eleven years.

“The USA is not the only country from where people come to us for treatment. Medical tourists from Europe also actively come to Turkey. Türkiye receives more than 1 million medical tourists a year, according to authorities. Such demand does not allow us to relax. Clinics targeting international medical tourists must maintain high quality of service, use the latest equipment, and hire the best doctors. If you don’t have this, clients simply won’t come to you,” Salah said.

He noted that the unaffordable prices for medical services in the United States are a side effect of high taxes, a cumbersome insurance system, and unions that demand high salaries and bonuses for doctors so that they can pay off their huge student loan debts.

“There prices of medical services in the US are legendary. However, US doctors are not more qualified than medical professionals in other developed countries, and the equipment used in the US is no better or newer than the medical devices found in the EU, Malaysia, or Turkey. For example, breast and buttock implants produced and certified in Turkey are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dental implants used in Turkey are manufactured in Switzerland or Germany, which are considered the best in the dental industry. medical tourists from America can save from 50% to 80%, that is, hundreds or even thousands of dollars, considering prices in the United States. And all this without loss of quality,” explained Salah.

But a trip for treatment abroad is not only about the cost of doctors’ services. You need to somehow get to another country, and besides, you need to live there somewhere. And these are also expenses.

Flight

You are responsible for finding and purchasing your own airline ticket. Until recently, many Americans chose Mexico as a destination for medical tourism, likely due to its close proximity and affordable travel options. However, some regions in Mexico are classified as "Level 4: Do Not Travel"by the US Department of State due to the high risk of crime and kidnapping. This warning appears to be justified after a recent terrifying incident. Four Americans traveled to Mexico to support a friend who was scheduled to undergo cosmetic surgery. Shortly after crossing the border, they were kidnapped and only two of them were rescued..

Therefore, now many are looking for safer options and often choose Turkey: this country is a hub for many airlines, and due to high competition and the struggle for customers, prices for flights there are lower than to Asian countries, where medical tourism is also developed.

Furthermore, the US Department of State considers Turkey to be a safe travel destination. The level of danger there is the same as in France, United Kingdom or Italy, but the prices for medical services are low.

You can find inexpensive tickets on aggregators Skyscanner, Momondo, Airfarewatchdog, ITA Matrix. Some more good tips to save on airfare are: here.

Photo: Cayra Clinic

Accomodation

A medical procedure is not a manicure. The patient must be observed before and after. In addition, if this is a foreign patient, he needs to be made comfortable and not forced to wander around a foreign city back and forth for examinations and tests.

Therefore, medical tourism clinics often have hotels where not only patients but their relatives can stay. That way, the post-procedure recovery, which can take up to two weeks, becomes vacation time with family in a charming country or even on the beach.

According to the director of the Cayra Clinic, they meet patients at the airport and accommodate them in hotel rooms on the clinic’s premises. Relatives can also stay with the patient. Medical personnel are always on duty to provide assistance to patients if needed.

“The rooms are completely different from hospital rooms and more like a resort. They are bright, cozy, with large windows overlooking the city. Each room has a microwave, DVD player, cable TV with international channels, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, Netflix access and much more. Breakfast is usually included in the room rate. But you can add additional meals to each package, up to an all-inclusive system. The hotel has a restaurant, a SPA center with a sauna, hammam and massage room, as well as excursion services,” said Salah.

The Risks of Medical Tourism and How to Minimize Them

SERVICE QUALITY. In some countries, the requirements for maintaining doctors' licensure and accreditation are lower than in the US, and sometimes they fall below the standard necessary for patient safety. This can result not only in medical outcomes that are poorer than expected, but also poses a risk of contracting infections, including dangerous viral diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.

Therefore, when choosing a country for medical tourism, you shouldn’t base your decision solely on the cost of services. Take the time to research the overall state of the healthcare system and the qualifications of doctors in the country you plan to visit for treatment.

“You shouldn't chase after the low price. In some countries, patients face risks that healthy people don’t usually consider. For example, bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics. These infections exist everywhere, but the risk of contracting them varies by country. Turkey has high standards for doctors. As a result, it ranks high among destinations for medical tourism worldwide. According to the health care index by country based on patient reviews, Turkey ranked 27th which is higher than the United States. The Lancet medical journal placed Turkey's healthcare system ranks 60th among 195 countries,” Salah said.

Still, having high ratings is not enough. You should also check the hospital. There is always a risk to come across fraud or malpractice even in the countries with the best healthcare systems.

Before traveling abroad for medical treatment, be sure to check the clinic’s international accreditation. You can do this on websites such as:

Other important facts to keep in mind are how long the clinic has been in business, what other patients say about their experience with it ( read testimonials )and what is the hiring process for their doctors.

"Cayra Clinic certified by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism of Turkey. We have received 2 ISO certifications for caring for our patients. In addition, each member of our medical team has certifications and scientific publications in specific treatment methods,” Salah explained.

The clinic provides various services. Photo: Cayra Clinic

COMMUNICATION. If you’ve been living in the US for a long time, you most likely have a good command of English. But when you visit the doctor, you’ll need to describe your symptoms: is it a stabbing pain, a cutting sensation, or maybe a nagging ache, which specific organ is causing discomfort. It might not be easy to explain.

But that's something else! Imagine that you come for treatment to a non-English speaking country. English is not the native language of either you or the doctor, but you and he need to somehow communicate and understand each other correctly. This is a puzzle with an asterisk!

Clinics that cater to medical tourists usually recognize this challenge and hire coordinators who are native speakers of different languages.

“All our staff speaks excellent English. In addition, in our clinics - in Istanbul and Antalya - there are coordinatorsspeaking different languages. Liya and Olya, for example, are native speakers of Ukrainian. There are also coordinators who speak English, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Lithuanian and French,” Salah emphasized.

But don’t rely on the fact that this will be the case everywhere—check this point with the clinic before you go for treatment.

AIR TRAVEL AFTER SURGERY. Flying after surgery increases the risk of developing blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis. Therefore, you should avoid flying home immediately after surgery.

“I strongly recommend not to rush home after the procedure. After breast or abdominal surgery, you should not travel by air for at least 10 days. Pressure changes carry great risks for such patients. For people undergoing cosmetic procedures on the face, eyelids or nose, or after laser therapy, it is best to wait 7-10 days before flying home. We offer accommodation and care packages that take into account the required rehabilitation period before the patient flies home,” Salah said.

According to him, the hotel at Cayra Clinic offers excursion services for such patients.: “Türkiye is a tourist mecca, and there is a lot to see here. The sea, mountains, historical sights - our patients do not get bored while they wait for their flight home.”

CONTINUOUS MEDICAL CARE. Doctors need to be informed about your health status, any allergies, and contraindications you may have, before commencing treatment. As there is no global database of patients, you should bring your medical records and lab test results when traveling abroad for treatment. Additionally, do not forget to inform doctors at your destination about your allergies and medications you take.

After completing your treatment, it is important to obtain all medical records from the foreign clinic detailing the procedures performed and your current health condition. If you require further treatment in the United States, your doctor needs to be aware of what procedures you underwent and how they were conducted. You may need to have these documents translated into English.

“We provide Cayra Clinic’s patients with travel medical insurance, medical treatment records written in seven languages,, as well as certificates for the materials used during the procedure,” explained Salah.

Photo: Cayra Clinic

Other Important Things to Do Before Traveling for Treatment to Another Country:

  1. Consult with your US doctor, especially if the procedure you plan to undergo at a foreign clinic is related to a treatment process you started in the US, or if you have a chronic disease.
  2. Purchase international medical insurance that covers medical evacuation back to the United States. You can buy it directly from the Cayra Clinic.

Keep in mind that travel insurance - a special type of health insurance policy. It will not cover dental treatment or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) abroad. Such insurance is designed to save your wallet in case of emergency situations in another country. When you travel abroad to see a doctor with a pre-existing condition, the travel insurance won’t cover those services.

Material prepared in partnership with

Cayra Clinic

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