Medical tourism is on the rise, with estimates suggesting the industry is growing by 15-25% each year, but it is something that some people still have reservations about. Whether you have already decided to seek treatment abroad, or it is something you are considering here’s a list of things to think about before you opt to travel abroad for medical treatment.
1 There are international groups to review medical facilities abroad and ensure they are up to expected standards – Organisations such as JCI, ISQua, and Temos are particularly relevant to people considering treatment abroad (these accrediting bodies evaluate clinics and hospitals to a set of international standards). At Medigo, we clearly list the accreditations that a clinic or hospital has earned. Many countries also have national or regional accreditations, too. This doesn’t mean they are of a lower quality, just that they aren’t recognized internationally. Reliable providers will also be nationally certified by their relevant medical organisations.
2 Consider recovery time – Certain procedures require more recovery time than others, particularly if you are flying back home, so you need to consider how long you are happy to be away for. Your doctor should explain how much recovery time is required for your procedure. Also, be sure to allow yourself enough time in the unlikely case that a complication extends your stay abroad.
3 Is there someone who can accompany you? – While you can certainly make the trip alone if you prefer to, it’s almost always a good idea to have somebody accompanying you for support. Clinics often offer accommodation deals for travel partners – it’s good to be aware of these so you can factor in the overall cost for both you and anyone else travelling with you. We’ve seen many people opting to travel with a partner for treatment, with both parties undergoing dental or cosmetic procedures.
4 Will there be a language barrier? – Procedures are generally more expensive in native English-speaking countries, so you need to consider whether language barriers may present a problem if you seek treatment at a clinic elsewhere. Almost every clinic abroad that offers treatments to medical tourists will speak English though.
5 Research clinics extensively – Make sure you choose a clinic that has a good reputation for your particular procedure, and one that is accredited – nationally or internationally. Read up on patient reviews. Obviously, these are not always accurate or vetted on various sites but, for reputable companies, they will be.
6 What will be the overall cost? – For necessary surgeries, the NHS can often cover the cost of the treatment itself, and the stay in hospital for recovery, but not the travel. For cosmetic treatments, you will have to pay the full price out-of-pocket. It’s important to make sure that what is covered in your treatment is all clearly outlined before you travel – this way you can prepare a budget for the overall treatment cost.
7 Make the treatment your number one priority – It can be tempting to choose a clinic based on its location, but it’s important that you first narrow down your options according to where is the best place for the treatment before choosing a clinic. Different countries are renowned for their expertise in particular medical specialties, so it’s advisable to go wherever is best equipped to carry out the treatment you need.
8 Does your travel insurance cover your stay? – Medical travel insurance is different to regular travel insurance – the latter will not cover you should any complications arise causing you to need additional care or extra recovery time. Make sure to do your research, and purchase a policy that will fully cover you in any eventuality.
9 Can you claim some, or all, of the costs back from the NHS? – Consult with your GP before seeking medical treatment abroad, and follow the correct protocol to ensure your costs can be claimed back. Only medically necessary treatments can be claimed back, not elective procedures, but you will need to be assessed by your GP who can verify whether or not they believe the surgery to be mandatory. For example, bariatric surgery can be covered by the NHS, but only if it is considered medically necessary.
10 There are different options for treatment within Europe – Entitlement to free, or reduced cost, medical care within Europe, can vary depending on the route you take. If you choose the S2 route, the NHS will cover the cost of your treatment, but you may be required to contribute to health care costs. Through the EU directive, you will need to pay costs upfront and then apply for reimbursement through the NHS post-treatment. The NHS won’t, however, fund treatment that is obtained outside of the EU.
Medical tourism, also known as medical travel, is the practice of individual people leaving their country of residence to seek medical care in another country to save on costs, to find better-quality care, or to avoid the long wait times for treatment at home. In 2015, research by MEDIGO found that nearly 9 million people in the UK would consider medical treatment abroad, and the medical tourism market is growing rapidly. If you are considering treatment outside of the UK, discuss your plans with your GP or dentist, who can advise on the best options for you. For more info, visit Medigo.
Ugur Samut is CEO of Medigo.