Medical Tourism

  1. I had a patient who came into the ER for a recheck after having an elective surgery done in Mexico. She said it cost $4,000 there and would have cost $30,000 in the US. She did this to save money.
    She was about 10 days post op and had no local doctors to follow up with so was told to come to the ER for evaluation for post op problems.

    I've read about this becoming more and more common because of the high cost of medicine in the United States. What do you think?
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  2. 26 Comments

  3. by   tnbutterfly
    There is even a Medical Tourism Association
  4. by   Double-Helix
    I’ve heard of this as well. Typically I hear about patients choosing to have plastic surgeries like tummy tucks and breast augmentations outside the US to save money. Having surgery in a less regulated environment with no assurance of the qualifications of staff is not a risk I’m personally willing to take. In the majority of cases, I’m sure everything goes just fine. In the cases that don’t go well, though... I think they get featured on “Botched."
  5. by   That Guy
    If it's reputable place and not some container and shipping box I don't see the problem with it.
    Last edit by That Guy on Apr 22
  6. by   brownbook
    Inquiring minds want to know, did she have any post op problems?
  7. by   RiskManager
    The surgeons/dentists back home are really reluctant to see the medical tourists for any post-procedure problems. They figure they may end up holding the bag for any issues, and they conveniently have malpractice insurance and can be sued locally, as opposed to filing a suit in Mexico or India.
  8. by   Emergent
    Quote from brownbook
    Inquiring minds want to know, did she have any post op problems?
    Just nausea. Hers was a type of gastric, weight reducing surgery. I thought it unwise to have that done in another country since there are significant side effects, sometimes, to the surgery. Unfortunately some insurances don't cover that.
  9. by   klone
    I would do it in a heartbeat. I would follow up with my PCP, though, rather than the ED.
  10. by   KatieMI
    Medical tourism is what fueling research in some countries. Current achievements of German and Australian molecular genetics in, for one example, intraop diagnostics of high vs. average risk melanoma was made possible by thousands of Australians going to Taiwan for removing suspucious moles. In Australia, with socialized medical system, doing so involves some waiting time and most people do not want to bounce about for a few weeks with a potential killer tumor growing on them. Plus, on Taiwan there are much less of silly bureucratic hoops a researcher must jump through; whatever piece of human flesh is cut off in OR, it belongs to the hospital and can be disposed off directly in the DNA sequencing lab.

    Contrary to what some people think, the World is bigger than the USA, and many conditions are just better treated in other countries. Taiwanese surgeons are famous for their plastics, advanced sport rehab and joint replacement outcomes (although a good part of their success happens because reputable clinics there just won't take someone 400 lbs+ with a long list of chronic non-controlled health conditions). Germany and Israel are proud of their advanced cancer treatment centers. And I won't even tell about fibromyalgia treatment, because the way it is dealt with here in the USA is, IMHO, pure disgrace.

    There are some additional risks involved in "medical tourism" but so is everything else in our lives. If done correctly (and it means WAY more than 15 min Googling) and well planned, it can be less risky and less expensive, not mentioning more interesting and eye-opening experience.
  11. by   Sour Lemon
    In my younger years, I had a cosmetic procedure done in a foreign country on a whim. I would probably stick to my own country if I had it to do all over again ...but only because I'm more cautious in general and my own country is more familiar.
    My procedure went well. I was very happy with the outcome (still am!) and experienced no complications, at all.
  12. by   Extra Pickles
    I used to be very skeptical and even a little arrogant when it came to understanding the quality of medical care that can be obtained in other areas of the world and how that expense compares to the US. In doing some reading and talking with people who have had various procedures done in other countries I am pretty comfortable with the idea that if one does one's home work carefully one can save a tremendous amount of money having elective surgeries taken care of in other countries. The cost of medical care in the United States is a huge embarrassment, we should be ashamed how much it costs for things that can be done for far less expense elsewhere.

    I would not choose some surgeries in some countries because of the concern for quality of care, safety, the usual of course. But there are many options in other countries that can be done very safely and very well and the cost of the airfare and hotels and everything else will still be far FAR less than a short stay in a local hospital here.

    Caveat emptor.
  13. by   Ddestiny
    My only experience with Medical Tourism is when things go wrong. I work on a Post Surgical floor in a hospital that is a Center for Bariatric Excellence so we have received several patients that went to Mexico to get their weight loss surgery and shortly after acquired problems. One interesting case was where two sisters went down and did some kind of "buy one, get one half off" kind of deal and one sister developed massive problems along their way home. She required a PCA and was with us for a long time. The op note from the surgeon said something about, upon opening the patient, the previous surgical altering was "very unusual" and wasn't reflective of the Roux-En-Y surgery that she requested. The sister, at least at that point, was fine.

    So yeah, based on my experiences I'm not a huge fan.
  14. by   foggnm
    Perhaps if paying cash which means no insurance or perhaps for certain elective procedures. But since the affordable care act mandates all residents have insurance (and fines them at tax time if they don't), then I'd say it should be less common. The funny thing is she was told to go the the ER for a BP check. I would hope any medical practice knows there are much easier and more appropriate places for a simple BP check. I do know people go to Mexico for a lot of dental procedures because dental insurance doesn't cover surgeries very well.
    Last edit by foggnm on Apr 22

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