Medical tourism is not so frequent and not so dollar-wise
January 10, 2011
The growth of the recent trend for Americans to travel abroad for medical treatment may be exaggerated. There is now hard data about the frequency of American medical tourism. Brandon Alleman, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, performed a telephone survey of the companies that expedite foreign travel for medical treatment. Lynne Peeples reports on these findings for Reuters Health on December 31, 2010.
Alleman surveyed 45 companies, representing about 70 percent of the industry that expedites overseas medical travel for United States residents. Prior reports had indicated that a whopping 500,000 to 2 million Americans had been referred for treatment overseas. But, in fact, Alleman’s survey of 70 percent of the market demonstrates that only 13,500 Americans were referred for overseas medical procedures.
Those people that believe the less medical tourism, the better, will be happy with Alleman’s statistics. Traveling to foreign countries for treatment, primarily for orthopedic, cardiac, infertility and cosmetic procedures, has been a controversial subject fraught with tales of unsanitary and inadequate facilities, unlicensed practitioners, untested procedures and lack of aftercare coordination.
Needless to say, Americans have done this to save a buck. But there is an ironic twist. Peeples reports, “… the team also found that the prices of procedures overseas were similar to what Medicare pays for the same procedures in the U.S. A heart bypass surgery costs an average of $18,600 outside the country, for example, and Medicare pays about $21,000 for the procedure.”
Americans traveling overseas for medical procedures are concerned with quality of care. Companies facilitating these medical junkets do investigate accreditation and certification of their foreign providers or hospitals.
But, what about follow-up care? Researchers discovered that 93 percent of the companies expected follow-up care to be delivered by U.S. physicians. However, there is no research on the method of planning for follow-up care. Is the follow-up care coordinated prior to the surgery or is it delivered in U.S. emergency rooms?
When undergoing plastic surgery, healing and aftercare are paramount. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery warns patients to make informed choices when going abroad for plastic surgery. Following safety guidelines or choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon associated with ASAPS can greatly limit the risks.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.
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