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
-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?