Is Medical Travel Right for Me?

Medical tourism can be a wonderful solution for those who wish to seek medical treatment abroad, but it isn't for everyone. In some cases, medical travel constitutes too much of a risk or hassle, in which case local treatment is definitely preferable. However, if you are straddling the fence between medical travel and at-home solutions, these questions can help you decide which is right for you.

How urgent is your situation?
Before you decide that medical travel is right for you, consider your condition. Do you need to have a particular procedure or surgery within a specific number of days? Will traveling make your condition worse? In some cases, urgency doesn't permit medical tourism as a solution because the patient would suffer unduly from traveling abroad, and you must be able to look at your own situation objectively.

Do you have a country in mind?
It is easier to pursue medical travel when you have a particular destination picked out. For example, maybe you've always heard about the excellent health care in India, or maybe you're eager to see the topography of Brazil. Your motives in considering medical tourism should play a big part in deciding what is right for you. If it all seems too overwhelming and none of the destinations on your list seem appealing, you might want to consider other options.

What kind of insurance do you have?
Money is probably the primary reason why medical tourism has become so popular, and a lack of insurance is certainly a good incentive to seek cheaper treatment. If you don't have any insurance, or if your insurance provider isn't cooperating, medical travel might be your best option. Even without insurance, you're likely to save thousands of dollars by undergoing surgery abroad, and less complicated procedures offer similar reductions in cost.

Do you know people in a foreign country?
If you have friends or family in a foreign country where medical tourism is an option, this might be the best way to get medical treatment. In many cases, patients feel less stress when they are surrounded by people they know, and having a translator will also help with any language barriers. Your friend or relative might also provide you with a place to stay after you've been discharged from the hospital, at which point you might not yet feel up to traveling home.

What type of procedure is required?
In many cases, medical travel becomes an option when a foreign physician is willing to try a procedure not yet approved in the United States, or when there are physicians available who have more experience with a particular procedure. Before you decide on medical tourism, find out what types of treatment options are available, and how much they cost in comparison with those offered in your home country. Sometimes, comparison shopping is your best bet.

Are you in need of a vacation?
Medical travel presents a unique opportunity to combine medical treatment with a much-needed vacation. You'll probably be taking a few days off from work anyway for recovery, so why not recover in a beautiful hotel in a foreign country? This saves you from having to take two trips - which certainly will cut down on your costs - and you can enjoy a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere while you prepare yourself for the return to your daily life. Of course, you don't want to choose a medical tourism destination based on the availability of luxury hotels, so make sure you choose a safe, reputable hospital before you make the reservations.

Have you saved enough money?
Although medical tourism usually provides patients with a less-expensive alternative to treatment in their home countries, it certainly isn't free. Your insurance won't be accepted by the hospital or clinic you choose, and all of your costs will have to be paid out of pocket. Before you decide that medical travel is right for you, make sure you have sufficient financial resources to cover the treatment, hospital stay, transportation, meals and anything else you might need to purchase.

Will you have a companion?
Medical travel might be easy on the wallet, but it can be hard on your stress levels if you don't have a companion with you on the journey. Before you book your flight, make sure that a friend or relative can come with you to help make decisions and plan reservations. Otherwise, you'll spend the entire time worrying about whether or not you've forgotten anything. Of course, if you have friends or family in the destination country, you might not need to worry about this.

Consider Carefully
The list of questions above should help you make an informed decision about medical travel, but don't discount your own personal circumstances. Examine your options, your bank accounts and your motivations, then decide on a country that fills your needs. And, if medical tourism isn't right for you, there may be other options in your home country.

Next article: Researching and Planning Medical Travel