Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lack of sunshine may be bad for heart (and soul)

No longer does the lack of sunshine in winter months just give you SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it may also give you heart disease.

As if winter weren’t bad enough already.

A recent CNN article highlighted the importance of vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) in your diet. Long added to milk because the vitamin increases the absorption of calcium, your body can also create its own vitamin D simply by being in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes a day (without sunscreen).

Researchers studied groups of people without history of heart disease and found that those with diminished levels of vitamin D in their system were 77 percent more likely to die than those with adequate levels, 45 percent more likely to develop cardiac disease, and twice as likely to experience heart failure during the year-long study.

So next time you see a ray of sunshine in the dreary winter sky, bundle up and take a walk—it’ll strengthen your heart in more ways than one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

No insurance = death?

Have you heard? Being uninsured could kill you.

A recent study shows that people who have no health insurance are 40 percent more likely to die than those who are insured—that translates to 45,000 Americans dying each year because they don’t have health insurance.

To arrive at this number, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance examined a group of 9,000 people for six years and kept track of their overall health. “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health,” lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper said in a statement.

This study comes right after a report by the U.S. Treasury that followed 17,000 Americans for a decade and found that half of working-age adults can expect to lose their insurance at some point in the next 10 years.

With all this grim news, I’m happy medical tourism companies like MedTrava can offer Americans affordable health care abroad. There’s no reason why anybody should put off needed surgeries or even a comprehensive diagnostic exam when there are alternatives almost anyone can afford.

Friday, August 14, 2009

MedTrava helps Patient get Spinal Fusion

When Dallas resident Jeremy P. needed spinal fusion surgery, his first instinct was to go to a local hospital and get the surgery. But after meeting with some surgeons, he was unpleasantly surprised.

“The doctors seemed like they didn’t really care about their patients, they seemed cocky,” his wife, Rachael, says. That attitude, combined with a six-digit price tag, prompted them to look elsewhere.

They quickly realized India offered the best value, combining some of the world’s best spinal surgeons with some of the lowest prices for spinal fusion.

While the couple initially tried planning their entire medical journey alone, they soon reached out to MedTrava for help when they realized the number of details that goes into planning a medical trip overseas. MedTrava was able to provide expert assistance with everything from corresponding with the hospital to recommending hotels and flight plans.

Jeremy was able to get his surgery done at Apollo Hospital in Bangalore for a fraction of the price the U.S. hospitals wanted to charge him.

Plus, says his wife, “Jeremy’s doctor was awesome, he was very down to earth. Jeremy’s back looks good, and the doctor personally checked up on him every day he was in the hospital.”

Despite having never traveled outside of the U.S. before, the couple had no problems with language barriers on their journey. They encountered a few cultural obstacles, such as getting used to drinks served without ice, but they managed to combat some of their culture shock by indulging in Pizza Hut deliveries in the hospital.

Asked the million-dollar question of “Would you do it again,” Rachael responds enthusiastically. “Definitely. If either one us ever had to have a surgery that costs more than $20,000 in the U.S., we would go back to India in a heartbeat.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

What to Expect from your Weight Loss Surgery

In the last blog we talked about obesity and the problems some people face in overcoming the challenges of weight-loss. To continue on this topic, below is a bit of information on different weight-loss surgeries and what you can expect from your gastric bypass surgery or lap-band surgery overseas.

Weight loss surgeries for the most part are divided into three broad categories:

Restrictive procedures, such as lap-band surgery, which reduce the amount the stomach can hold
Malabsorptive procedures, which shorten the digestive tract
• A combination of restrictive and malabsorptive procedures. Gastric bypass surgery uses this method.

Gastric bypass surgery is the most common weight-loss surgery performed, followed by gastric banding surgery. Here are some tips on what to expect from each surgery:

Before surgery
Patients will need to begin consuming a special diet several weeks prior to surgery. The diet consists of high protein, low carbohydrate and fat foods that help prepare the body for surgery. Your doctor will provide details about which foods to consume or avoid.

Immediately after Surgery
After the surgery, patients normally spend two to three days recuperating in the hospital. Patients are only discharged when there is no more discomfort and pain, and when you are already able to keep down liquids or pureed food.

Changing Your Diet
Recovering patients will be on a liquid diet for a number of weeks after surgery. As you progress to a solid-foot diet, you will need to make good food choices and learn to avoid problem foods, such as high-fiber, high-fat, and dry foods, since these are more difficult for the small stomach pouch to digest. Good food choices include fruits and vegetables, lean protein, some bread and cereal, and some dairy products.

Gastric Bypass Patients: You will feel full very quickly as you switch to a solid-food diet since the new stomach pouch will initially hold only about a teaspoon of food. Although the pouch will eventually expand, it will only be able to contain around 1 cup of thoroughly chewed food as compared to a normal stomach’s capacity of up to 1 quart. Because of this, you will only be able to eat small meals throughout the day.
You will be required to take supplements to make up for the nutrients lost, since food will now move more quickly through the digestive system.

Lap-band patients will have to modify their diets to not drink liquids during or immediately after meals as they will flush food through the reduced stomach pouch, which eliminates the prolonged feeling of satiety needed to help you eat less. It is recommended to eat only three small meals a day and make sure that these meals contain adequate nutrients. Unlike gastric bypass surgery, gastric banding does not interfere with food absorption, so vitamin deficiencies are rare after gastric banding.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Americans Overweight than Ever Before

Did you know:

-2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese?

-In 30 states, 30% of children are obese or overweight?

-The rates of obesity have risen in 23 states over the past year?

Source: “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America 2009,” Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

It’s clear that excessive weight gain is a growing problem in the U.S. In addition to the statistics above, the study “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America 2009” found that NO states had a decrease in obesity rates from last year. Many analysts predict that obesity rates will only continue to rise with the recession; as food prices continue to climb, some will eschew paying a premium for fresh fruits and veggies and opt for the lower-priced (but nutritionally deficient) pre-packaged meals.

Saving money on groceries this way may be the easy choice, but is perhaps not the wisest choice. The health risks associated with being overweight are numerous, increasing the risk of ailments ranging from heart problems to cancer to arthritis. For teens, being overweight has been linked to increased rates of suicide.

So we know there’s a problem, but what is there to do about it? The obvious answer is to suck up the extra cost and prepare healthy meals with fruits and veggies. But for some, this solution may just be unfeasible, and no amount of dieting has ever worked. At this point, it may be time to run to weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass surgery or lap band surgery.

Weight loss surgery is not for everyone and should generally only be a last-resort solution. But if you’re one of those people unable to lose weight with conventional methods, this may be the best option to help you preserve your future health.

Stay tuned for our next post that goes into detail of what to expect from weight loss surgery.

Till then, stay healthy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Pick a Medical Tourism Company

Google any of the most-searched terms for medical tourism industry - medical tourism, medical travel, and overseas health care - and you're going to find a lot of links to medical travel facilitators.

With all of these medical tourism companies out there, how can you differentiate between the reputable companies that have done their due diligence about their network partners and who have a proven track record of putting their patients' first, and the fly-by-the-night companies looking to make a quick buck off of you?

Here are a few key points to look at when considering which medical travel company to use:

Transparent pricing - Before you sign any commitment, you should receive a detailed account of the price you can expect to pay. Some companies break down the price, so you know how much each aspect of your medical journey will cost. Others lump it all into a package price. However they price it, you should be aware of exactly what costs will be covered. Most reputable companies will at the minimum cover the following in the price they charge you:

-Transmittal of your medical records to the surgeon for review

-Assistance in arranging any passports or visas you may need (although the fee to acquire these documents will generally be extra)

-Procedure price (inclusive of doctors' fees, hospital fees, and medications associated with surgery)

-Hospital Room and three meals a day for you and a companion for a specified number of days after surgery
-Flight arrangements

-Hotel costs

-Transportation to and from the airport

-Transportation to and from the hospital for pre- and post-operative care

You may also pay extra for additional amenities such as a cell phone, but this should be clearly stated in your contract.

Communication with your surgeon - A good medical travel company should offer you a free conference call with a surgeon before you have made any financial obligation to go. This benefits you by letting you discuss the different treatment plans available based on your condition. You will be able to determine whether you feel comfortable with the surgeon and with the surgeon's medical philosophy.

Some medical tourism companies will require a certain degree of commitment before scheduling the conference call. MedTrava, for example, prefers to have patients submit any medical records they have and fill out a medical evaluation form. This allows the surgeon to review your records and to direct his comments specifically tailored to your case, making the call much more valuable for you.

Having a conference call with a prospective surgeon does not indicate any obligation on your end. With a reputable medical travel company, if you do not feel comfortable with the surgeon you should be able to ask for a conference call with a different surgeon, or if you choose to seek care elsewhere you can request the return or destruction of your medical records. Complimentary conference calls are a service provided by good medical tourism companies to help you-the patient-feel comfortable about your decision to go abroad for medical care.

References: In addition to setting up a call with a surgeon, your medical tourism facilitator should offer to put you in touch with one of their former patients. Not only will it reassure you that the company has successfully arranged medical tourism packages before, but it will give you a first-hand account of what to expect from your overseas surgery.

Money-back guarantee - If at any point during your medical travel journey - prior to actually having the surgery - you decide not to go through your planned surgery, a good medical travel facilitator will refund you all of the money you have paid, except for the expenses you have already incurred (airfare, hotel, etc.) Your medical tourism company should have enough faith in the doctors and hospitals in their network that they should be willing to offer you this guarantee. It's in our best interest to make sure our patients return home satisfied - even if that means allowing you the option of bowing out of surgery if you don't feel comfortable.

In-country patient care manager - One of the benefits of using a medical travel company for your overseas surgery is the reassurance that you will have someone to rely on for any issues or questions you have. All medical travel facilitators will have a patient care manager to answer your questions and help you out before you set off on your journey. But you should choose a company that can offer you a patient care manager in the country you're traveling to. That way, you'll have a point-of-contact, someone you already know in your destination country. If you ever have any communication issues, you can give them a call and ask them to translate and advocate for you, and they should also visit you in the hospital to check up on you.

Post-operative care - Some medical tourism companies consider their job done once you've returned to your home country after surgery abroad. The distinguishing factor of a really good medical travel company is one that promises to follow up with you after you've returned and who will assist you as much as possible with any questions or issues you have afterwards.


So go back to the Internet and get a few phone numbers of medical travel facilitators. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and give them a call (a few even have someone available to answer the phones 24/7) and ask them the questions in the list below. Remember, you as the patient are in the driver's seat, so make sure you use a medical tourism company that gives you the care you deserve.

-What charges are included in your price quote?

-When will I be able to speak with the surgeons you recommend?

-Will you set up a call for me with one of your former patients?

-What is your refund policy if I decide not to go through with my planned surgery?

-Do you have a company representative based in the country I'll be traveling to; if so, what support can I expect to receive from them?

-What happens after I return home? Will you still be available to me for any questions I have regarding my recovery?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Medical Tourism Surges Despite Recession

In these recessionary times, almost every industry is seeing significant losses.

Not so with medical tourism.

Hospitals specializing in Medical Tourism report seeing a 30 percent increase in business from international patients last year. Discounting other nationalities, The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions estimated the number of Americans that traveled abroad for healthcare in 2007 at 750,000. As money gets tighter, more people are opting to travel long distances to save on their healthcare bills. Current research indicates that more than one million Americans are traveling overseas to receive medical treatment.

While traveling abroad for medical care is not a new concept, it is only in the past few years that the medical tourism industry has exploded. International hospitals in foreign countries began focusing their marketing efforts on global clientele and medical tourism companies like MedTrava were created to help fill the gap between the patient's need for information, support, and assistance and the hospital's ability to devote its valuable resources to this area.

With the current state of the U.S. healthcare system, it's no wonder that many uninsured Americans are eschewing medical care in their home country in favor of medical tourism. More than 47 million Americans are uninsured and nearly 120 million Americans are underinsured. The statistics for certain states are appalling. Only 76.1 percent of Texans and 79.9 percent of New Mexicans were insured as of 2007. Worse still, only 81 percent of Mississippians and 81.5 percent of Texans could get medical care when they needed it.

President Obama recognizes the problems inherent in the U.S. system of healthcare, saying "Fixing what's wrong with our health care system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve -- it's a necessity we cannot postpone any longer."

But with no clear idea of how the administration will pay for the estimated $630 billion price tag for its proposed reform, and with Republicans remaining vehemently opposed to nationalized healthcare, it could be a long while until Obama can make good on his promise of "It's time to deliver."

In the meantime, more and more Americans will continue to feel the pinch of healthcare bills. A recent Harvard University study reveals that medical bills play a factor in more than 62 percent of all bankruptcies.

And it's not only the uninsured that are affected by hefty medical bills; 78 percent of those citing medical bills as a reason for filing bankruptcy were actually insured.

Part of this reason is the ever-increasing share of the medical bill insured consumers are expected to pay. According to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center and Watson Wyatt Worldwide, the annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for an insured worker increased 34 percent between 2004 and 2007. The researchers recognized this problem and stated in their report, "in the United States, if you are sick and earn a modest income, then you are probably underinsured -- even if you have employer-based health coverage."

Health Insurance premiums have risen 73 percent since 2000, according to the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC). Employers and insurance companies are forced to more closely scrutinize their health plans to contain the high costs. Employers are now covering fewer employees, reducing the number of covered procedures and increasing co-pays and co-premiums. In fact, the NCHC states that employee contributions have increased 145 percent since 2000.

Many insured individuals in this situation find that they can save more money by traveling abroad for their treatment than they can by paying these hefty co-pays. Some have been pleasantly surprised to find that their insurance company will reimburse them for part of their medical travel.

While many medical travelers take advantage of cost savings for dental treatments, tummy tucks, facelifts and liposuction, a growing number are opting for open heart surgery and orthopedic procedures like hip or knee replacements overseas. Medical tourism can also allow a patient to take advantage of procedures difficult to receive in the U.S. Surgeries such as Birmingham hip resurfacing and cervical disc replacement were only recently approved by the FDA, so overseas surgeons can have years more experience than U.S. surgeons on these techniques. Procedures like stem cell treatment are also available in some foreign countries.

However, the bulk of the treatments medical tourists are seeking include orthopedics, cardiology, and dental. Patients are able to save up to 80 percent in these fields and receive superior treatment over what they would probably have been able to afford in the U.S. Quality of care at hospitals is comparable in quality to those in the United States. The Joint Commission International, an arm of the organization that accredits American hospitals has accredited nearly 200 hospitals overseas. Many doctors and surgeons are English-speaking and have trained at Western medical schools and teaching hospitals.

Medical travel companies can help expedite and facilitate a patient's treatment. Once a patient contacts a medical tourism facilitator like MedTrava, it can connect them to carefully selected, pre-qualified providers and fast-track the sending of the patient's medical records and set up a conference call with an overseas surgeon in days. Surgery can be scheduled in as quickly as two weeks, and the medical travel facilitator can assist the patient with every aspect of their medical travels, from visa and passport assistance to arranging for a patient care manager, driver, cell phone, and hotel in the destination country.

While traveling abroad for surgery is not usually a person's first choice, the quality of medical treatment available abroad is at an all time high-in some cases, superior to what is available in the United States. And in these days of a recession with no end in sight, being able to save 80 percent on anything without sacrificing any quality is a much-needed reprieve.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Laurie's Testimonial

"After considering dental implants for over 6 months, I took the "plunge" and set about having a series of exams and estimates done in Austin, Texas, my city of residence.

Good thing that MedTrava is based here, too!

After discovering the costs and care associated with my surgery, I decided to go through your company for this pretty extensive procedure. Your staff made it so much easier for me to do than I could have EVER done myself.

From identifying the BEST professionals to screening the procedure thoroughly, you guys were with me every step of the way! I'm now back home and back at work with renewed confidence and mending very well.

I could not have been happier with my surgeon. Her care and sincerity were coupled with professional knowledge that I never anticipated. The decision to have the complete procedure done in hospital was far different and much more manageable than the alternatives I had been offered here in the U.S. on an outpatient basis.

Since I do not have health insurance coverage, this would have never been affordable here and the preservation of my overall health would have been compromised.

I also elected to have a complete physical, which I had not had in over 10 years. I was surprised to learn of some issues that I had that I have been able to manage with the support of the wonderful doctors at Wockhardt Hospital. This alone was worth the trip!

The care in hospital was FAR superior to any I have ever experienced in the U.S., anywhere! The food and shopping were AMAZING...I came back with a great smile and deeper friendships; I am looking so forward to returning to the beautiful city of Bangalore with friends in August for my permanent teeth!"

To read more testimonials about patients' fabulous experiences, click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Taking Charge of Your Health

Did you know the number of people that die in the U.S. every week from medical errors is greater than the total number of people killed in 9/11?

And did you know that the U.S. ranks last among 19 industrialized nations in a measure of preventable deaths (deaths before the age of 75 that were potentially preventable with timely and effective healthcare)?

I recently stumbled across this information in a fascinating presentation given by Elizabeth L. Brewley, entitled Consumer Driven Healthcare: Consumers Need to Become CEOs of their Own Health and Health Care (you can download her presentation from this website).

In her presentation, Ms. Brewley advocates individuals take a more active approach to their medical care—shop around, ask your doctor more questions (Why are you prescribing me this drug? What are the side effects?), and practice healthy habits to prevent illness and minimize trips to the hospital.

According to President Obama, every 30 seconds an American files for bankruptcy because of their medical bills. Surely some of this debt could be avoided by following Ms. Brewley’s advice and taking charge of your healthcare to make sure you’re getting the right treatment, quality, and advice for your money.

Sometimes insurance companies have limits on which doctors they will pay for you to see or which treatments they will cover. And while it may be tempting to stick to the paradigm prescribed by your insurance company, sometimes after you’ve weighed the pros and cons it may be worth it to pay out of pocket for a certain doctor or treatment that best suits your needs and lifestyle. (I really like Health Savings Account insurance plans, as they allow for a greater deal of personal choice in healthcare).

At MedTrava, all of the patients that come to us have already done a great deal of research before coming to the conclusion that going overseas offers the best value for their money. Medical travel is not the right option for everybody, but all Americans could learn a thing or two from the people that choose to travel abroad for healthcare—namely to interview several doctors before finalizing your treatment plan.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Prevention We Can Believe In

Some may gasp at the thought of Obama’s proposed $634 billion plan to reform the nation’s healthcare industry. But even if you disagree with his politics, there is one resounding theme that hopefully everyone can agree on: the importance of prevention in keeping healthcare costs down.

In other words, if you invest in your health now you can reap the rewards later.

We’ve heard it all before--eating right, exercise, and going in for regular checkups all combine to make a person healthier and their overall average health costs more manageable.

But rarely is that sentiment translated into public policy. Modern medicine, while it advocates prevention, generally focuses on curing diseases rather than understanding why the disease occurred in the first place.

And that, in large part, may be because modern medicine is forced to be reactionary-rather than proactive-because many patients put off seeing a doctor until their health issues have become unbearable. This procrastination is, of course, understandable, when you consider diagnostic tests can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

I feel fortunate to spend enough time in India to get most of my health treatments done in this country. My mother, in fact, recently went in for a wellness exam that included a full set of diagnostic tests that would have cost thousands of dollars in the U.S, but she only paid a few hundred in India. Minor health problems she wasn’t even aware of revealed themselves in the tests, and now she can take action to prevent the issues from morphing into a full-blown health crisis.

And it’s for reasons like this that I founded MedTrava. If the adage knowledge is power is true, my mother has now regained control over her own health. Similarly, just making people aware of the quality of healthcare abroad allows them the power to choose where and how they want to be treated if they have a medical problem that needs attention.

Live well! Stay healthy!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Universal Health Care is Already Available for all Americans

The phrase universal healthcare has been tossed around in the news quite a bit in the past few months. A simple Google search turns up almost 13 million hits on the subject. And while the concept of making quality healthcare affordable seems like a far-off dream, it’s not exactly a long shot—we at MedTrava already providing it!

Yes, we’ve already made universal healthcare available. By enabling people to travel abroad for quality healthcare they can afford, we are truly embracing the full meaning of the phrase universal healthcare.

Because of issues with the healthcare systems in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, hospitals around the world—from Mexico to Germany to India—are offering their lower-cost, quality healthcare services to foreign nationals. In this free market model, patients can choose from a multitude of doctors and locations to choose the option that most appeals to them, giving them greater freedom than their PPO network in the U.S. might allow.

We can already see the trickle down effects that the quality and affordability of medical tourism is having on the American healthcare marketplace. Already, a few American practices have popped up that have a business model that allows them to offer medical options at a cheaper rate than is standard among their American peers (although at this point it is still more expensive than the overseas option). I expect that as more Americans start going abroad for their medical treatment and receive comparable quality to the U.S., more American healthcare professionals will start to reshape their business models to allow for more price competition.

Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute compares this phenomenon to the impact Volkswagen and Toyota had on the U.S. auto industry. “It’s showing another way of doing business that the automakers in the United States were just too indifferent to adopt, so competition had to come from somewhere. It came from overseas.” (Read the full article International Medical Tourism is on the Rise from the Heartland Institute.)

So next time you hear someone lamenting the state of the U.S. healthcare system, make sure to point out that medical tourism provides a valuable incentive to help the U.S. system improve on its own. And in the meantime, medical tourism makes it possible for almost any American to afford any surgery they need (or want). And yes, financing is available.