Medical Tourism

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The tourism industry has come a long way since the pioneering days of Thomas Cook in the 19th Century, when the enterprising businessman started offering excursions to adventurous Brits to exotic European destinations. The industry has seen numerous innovations since then, including the advent of cheap air travel, package holidays, adventure travel and eco-tourism for environmentally conscious travellers. However, perhaps the strangest development is the rise of medical tourism. Although it is not entirely new, with spa towns having attracted visitors since the 18th Century and the Greeks travelling all over the Mediterranean to the temple of the healing god Askeplios, it’s only in recent years that the practice has become truly global, with an estimated 7 million people fuelling an industry worth a staggering $40bn.
Medical tourism involves visiting a foreign country in order to receive treatment in that country, with travellers aiming to take advantage of cost savings, shortened waiting times or medical technology that is unavailable in their own. Although people have traditionally travelled from poorer countries to better developed ones, due to the more sophisticated care available, it is becoming increasingly popular for those wishing to obtain treatment to travel to third world countries, thanks to the significant cost savings or because the desired treatment is unavailable in their own country, due to being illegal. Although people travel in order to obtain virtually every form of procedure, some of the most popular ones are cosmetic surgery, dental surgery and fertility treatment, along with treatment for genetic disorders and even burial.
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So, how do you go about obtaining medical treatment overseas? It’s not exactly a smooth process with a multitude of bewildering options open to the potential client. The first step is to contact a medical tourism service provider, a company which can supply complete information on medical facilities, insurance, travel agencies and other relevant details, such as ethical and pre-travel issues. Once the client has provided all pertinent information about their case, certified consultants offer advice about treatments, costs are agreed upon and then recommendation letters are provided, allowing the client to obtain a medical visa. Travel can then be carried out, the treatment received and typically the patient will remain in the country for a short while afterwards.
However, before considering medical treatment in another country, there are a number of factors which should be considered. If travelling from a first world country to a third world one, then standards of service may be very different to those which the patient is accustomed to, while systems for complaints may not be implemented to the same degree. Thus, if the treatment is not carried out to the client’s satisfaction, it may be more difficult to lodge a complaint. In cases of medical malpractice, limitations of the legal system (which often contribute to the lower costs involved) may inhibit recourse to compensation, while if successfully sued, some hospitals or doctors may be unable to pay any damages due to not having appropriate insurance or indemnity.
You can read more of this article in our July/August 2015 issue of ModelsMania

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