Step by step guide for smart budgeting for Medical Tourism

The whole process of medical tourism can be very harsh on your wallet and bank accounts. Appropriate budgeting for the entire trip will alleviate the stress of having to pay extra fees or for any cancellations. Most medical tourists are not aware of all the different expenses that go into a medical trip—you may be inclined to budget solely for the medical treatments, and forget about the non-medical costs that take up a large part of the payments.

Since there are many expenses associated with medical tourism it is important that you be made aware of related costs in order for you to appropriately budget your trip. One of the most important steps in the preparation phase of your healthcare journey is calculating the cost of the entire medical trip. You should be able to estimate what expenses you will be incurring while travelling abroad, in terms of medical expenses, travel costs and other expenditures you will have to pay for. The cost of the treatment might be the most significant amount that you will have to budget for, but there are a lot of other factors you must consider.

This section is therefore aimed at helping the potential medical tourist understand all the intricacies that a medical trip requires. Here, you will find a breakdown of the expenses you will incur during your hospital visit/stay and all the various costs associated with a stay at a medical facility. Besides just the medical expenses, this section will also highlight the non-medical costs such as the travel, tourism and accommodation aspects of the medical journey.

Cost of medical treatment when budgeting for medical tourism

Treatment for any disease or medical condition involves consultation with the medical practitioner, diagnostic tests and subsequent visits before a treatment is finalized. All these factors directly or indirectly contribute towards the total cost of the treatment. The factors that significantly contribute towards the total medical treatment costs are listed below. You are recommended to consider these factors while researching for the right doctor and facilities.

Understanding the cost of a treatment or surgery

This section will hopefully help you understand what you will be spending most of your money on and allow you to create a comprehensive budget. There are two main types of expenditures during a medical journey: medical costs and non-medical expenses. As a note, the cost-calculations listed below are for patients that lack insurance, and are using other means to pay for their trip.  For patients whose insurance policies include medical tourism, you need to find out from your network manager what is included and what isn’t covered in your policy so you can appropriately budget for your trip.

A few hospitals in medical tourism destinations offer package prices when it comes to the medical expenses—this package deal will include a lump-sum payment that is inclusive of all the various factors that are listed below. It would be beneficial for a medical tourist to seek for a facility that offers this package price as it will help you avoid paying individual charges for different aspects within a hospital. It can also help you to steer clear of overspending unnecessarily.

If your facility does not offer a bundle deal for the medical expenses, these are the various factors you should be aware of as they will be likely to show up on your medical bill.

Cost of physician fees when budgeting for medical tourism

The fees charged by the physician are one of the major factors that contribute towards the total medical costs. It is one of the most expensive aspects of medical travel that need to be budgeted for prior to travelling. The higher the skills or specialty of the physician, the higher the fees you are likely to incur. It includes pre- and post-consultation, actual treatment and the related procedure. Each of these different charges contributes significantly towards the total invoice value.

Additional charges can also come up if the patient develops any complications or discomfort. This happens when surgery is involved. The doctor is likely to warn you of any possible complications during the consultation phase. For example, a diabetic patient will need additional care to stabilize their blood sugar before a cataract operation can be performed. Here the physician is forced to monitor other vital parameters to ensure the operation is successful. Patients that have complicated conditions will require extra time and effort from the physician resulting in extra charges being billed to compensate for the additional labour—in situations like this, it becomes difficult to stick to the original budget.

Cost of anaesthesiology fees when budgeting for medical tourism

Anaesthesia is a vital medical requirement for all surgical procedures.  Sometimes (especially if you have not opted for a package price), the fees for anaesthesia are charged separately and likely to be higher if a complex operation needs to be performed. Medical treatment requires the patient to pay fees to the anaesthetist which are additional to the charges from your treating doctor—so patients should find out about these charges to accurately budget for them. It is usual practice that the physician or hospital will recommend an anaesthesiologist who is attached to the facility.

Doctors administer two different types of anaesthetics – local or general. A dentist might choose to give local anaesthesia for a root canal to numb the pain. A surgeon is likely to utilize general to ensure that the operation is successful. How much anaesthesia is to be administered is critical as it could affect a patient’s recovery and cause severe complications in the event that you have been given the wrong dose.  There are different rates for the two types of anaesthetics. The fees for the anaesthetics include fees for the anaesthetist and the administration of the drug. It also includes the care during the procedure as well as the post-operative care.

Anaesthesia is a very vital aspect, thus you should aim to select a hospital that boasts competent anaesthetic facilities including state-of-the-art anaesthesia equipment.

Cost of surgical implants when budgeting for medical tourism

A major amount of money spent on certain operations involves the cost of surgical implants. Some surgeries require high-tech implants such as artificial pacemakers, or more common inserts such as silicone for breast augmentation. A medical tourist availing a procedure that would require medical implants should inquire about their cost prior to the procedure in order to accurately budget for them.

Cost of consumables when budgeting for medical tourism

Consumables are non-reusable items that are utilized during the procedure and for surgical dressing. Examples of this include sutures, gauze, cotton, gloves etc. The number this amounts to varies from facility to facility. If you are interested in budgeting for this, you should inquire from the international patient department or directly from your treating doctor.

Cost of prescription drugs post-treatment when budgeting for medical tourism

In many cases patients need to follow up with medicines long after the completion of the medical treatment. After the patient is released and all the discharge procedures are completed, the hospital is not responsible for providing prescribed drugs. Patients have to bear the expenses of the medical bills of all the prescribed drugs by the treating doctor. This is very vital for the full compliance of the procedure. Some conditions may require lifelong medication and some can be ceased once the patient is fully recovered.

Cost of lab and imaging fees when budgeting for medical tourism

It includes the number of lab test that are required before the treatment commences. Often a number of tests and diagnostic procedures are prescribed by the doctor. The hospital will charge separate fees for the various tests conducted during the course of the treatment.  Tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and blood tests may be conducted both during the pre- and the post-operative treatments.

Cost of blood transfusion fees (if needed) when budgeting for medical tourism

During situations when a lot of blood is lost during a medical procedure, a patient may require a blood transfusion. When a patient loses an uncontrollable amount of blood, it could potentially be fatal for the individual. This is why blood transfusion can be considered a life-saver in certain cases. Unfortunately, much to a patient’s dismay, once they are brought back to life through the blood transfusion, they have to pay for the blood bags. This cost is outside of the agreed-upon medical expenses since it is an emergency service made available to you.

Cost of operation theatre charges when budgeting for medical tourism

Patients engaging in surgical procedures will need an operating theatre where their procedure will be performed. Due to the various resources utilized in the operating theatre—all the monitoring tools, surgical equipment, human hands (surgeon, nurses, and technicians), the operating theatre will contribute to the escalating medical bill.

Cost of ICU charges (if needed) when budgeting for medical tourism

After the procedure, there is a possibility that the patient will require critical care, and could need to be transferred to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Here, they will be under complete medical supervision by physicians until they are deemed fit enough to be transferred to a normal room. They will also have nurses and other healthcare professionals tending to them so they can be restored back to health as quick as possible.

These charges can’t be budgeted for as a patient cannot know in advance of such a necessity. However, if you are attaining medical services for a complicated medical condition, it might be a good idea to ask about the price of the ICU services per night just to gauge what the possible additional expenses may amount to.

Cost of treatment when budgeting for medical tourism

A patient may come at any stage of a disease or a medical condition. Treatment will therefore vary according to the condition of the patient which in turn drives the cost factor. Sometimes a combination of treatments recommended would involve many skilled medical personnel. Nurses and lab assistants are a vital part of the auxiliary services. Sometimes, due to the nature of the condition, a patient might require a full time nurse to be hired. Aspects such as medical equipment, operating room fees and medication also incur costs and will be charged as a separate expense.

Cost of recovery when budgeting for medical tourism

After the treatment or surgery is successful, the recovery phase is crucial. A proper recovery pattern ensures that the patient is able to return to a healthy life. Sometimes, if patients are left on their own, there might be some negligence which is why doctors recommend proper medical assistance during the few days following the surgery. This too incurs some costs depending on the recovery period.

Cost of hospital stay charges when budgeting for medical tourism

This charge comes into effect from the date of admission to the date of release. Patients need to pay for the hospital rooms and bed occupied during the course of the treatment. There are several kinds of rooms: single, isolated wings, double beds, sharing in common dorm etc. It depends on how much a patient can afford. In single rooms, which are the most expensive rooms, typical amenities include a television, central heating or air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms.

Cost of nursing services when budgeting for medical tourism

Nurses come very handy during a patient’s treatment in a hospital or facility. They provide full time care to the patient when the physician is not around and tend to their daily needs. Thus, patients have to pay for their services separately.

Cost of medication and medical supplies when budgeting for medical tourism

During the course of treatment, a variety of medication is administered. Some of these prescription drugs can be very expensive (such as certain pain medications or specialized drugs). These make up a big chunk of the total expenditure on account of post-operative treatments.

A number of medical supplies are also needed in the course of the treatment. These medical supplies will be included in the total hospital fees for treatment.

Cost of rehabilitation or physical therapy charges (if needed) when budgeting for medical tourism

In the case of a patient seeking care for a hip-replacement or knee surgery, they would require the services of a physical therapist for rehabilitation. The physical therapist will dedicate time to the patient in order to ensure their mobility. Therefore, they will charge separate fees than that of the physician, anaesthetist or other healthcare providers. If you are availing a surgery that would require the use of a physical therapist, it would be to your benefit to calculate their costs and budget for them appropriately to avoid over-spending. Plus, you may need other kinds of rehabilitation also whose costs may vary a lot.

Cost of hospital meals when budgeting for medical tourism

Patients will be billed for the meals they have during their stay at hospital as part of the hospital fees. Often different kinds of meals are suggested for patients with varied kinds of ailments and are usually recommended by dieticians. Several nutritionists also play a role in meal requirements. They have to be paid when their services are utilized.

Cost of follow-up care in home country

Follow up care is the other vital aspect for surgeries and medical treatments conducted in foreign lands. It is wise to have a clear picture of the entire methodology under which such situations will be handled. Many surgical procedures need expensive follow-up treatment and hence it is vital to conduct an expense check for such care. The medical tourism procedure guidebook provides information about the types of follow up care you may require. While this is meant to be a helpful guide, it is recommended that you conduct comprehensive follow-up care based on your specific patient needs and requirements. Read the post-operative care chapter to learn more about follow-up treatments.

Thus, the total medical cost of the treatment and/or procedure is achieved after adding all these expenses in the right proportions. These contributing factors are very important in helping you estimate the total cost of the treatment.

Non-medical costs when budgeting for medical tourism

Medical tourism is primarily known for its cost saving nature along with quality medical treatment. Even though there are generous cost savings with medical tourism, the act of leaving your home country and getting medical treatment abroad does require a certain amount of expenses to be incurred by the patient.

Patients need to consider other expenses in addition to the core medical treatment costs. Since the procedure will be taking place in a foreign country, you have to think about where you are going to stay, transport, visa/passport expenses and possible sightseeing and shopping that you may indulge in during your trip.

Leaving apart the medical expenses, the non-treatment costs constitute a significant portion of the total expenses of medical travel. You should aim to be clear about all the non-medical costs you may incur, to help you budget during your travel preparations. Here are some key non-medical costs that should be considered.

Cost of travel expenses when budgeting for medical tourism

Travelling to the destination usually ends up being a large expenditure on a medical tourist’s budget. If you are making the travel arrangements without a facilitator, you will either have to utilize the services of a travel agent or book the flight online. If going through a travel agent, remember that agency fees are additional. By planning ahead and conducting thorough research, you may be able to find a good deal on air travel (this also depends on where in the world you are travelling to).

However, it is crucial to remember that you are travelling as a patient, so comfort should be essential here. Buy a flexible ticket where possible (even if it is more expensive) in case complications arise and you need to extend your trip. Also, think about purchasing a business class ticket if you are travelling for surgeries that require a roomier seat (knee or hip replacements). Since travelling can even cause discomfort for individuals who do not have a medical condition, it is important that patients travelling for medical care spend a little more money and are able to be comfortable during the journey.

Cost of accommodation when budgeting for medical tourism

As you can appreciate, accommodation forms a very important part of the medical treatment. You must arrange for suitable lodging for the pre- and post-operative phase of your trip. On many occasions, patients may be required to stay out of hospital for a short or long duration so a proper cost estimate should be calculated that includes both pre-operative and post-operative stays at the destination. You should attempt to choose accommodation that is convenient to you as well as cost effective; read the tourism guide section within this book for more info.

Cost of passport and visa fees when budgeting for medical tourism

Passport and visas should be in place if you are considering treatment overseas. If you do not have a valid passport, calculate any agency or non-direct expenses you might need to pay to arrange for one. Travelling to and from certain parts of the world also requires a valid visa. It generally takes a fair amount of time to process these visas. You should therefore commence preparation far in advance of your scheduled travel. Also, to process visas, many embassies charge a fee—a medical traveller should find out all the costs to accurately budget for this expense.

Cost of vacation expenses (tourism activities) when budgeting for medical tourism

Vacation is an integral part of medical tourism. It is an additional treat to the patients; they get to explore many beautiful places situated close to the treatment location. This is one of the prime reasons that many choose medical tourism as the vacation aids in quicker recovery. But nonetheless, tourism incurs costs. To be specific it must be considered that vacation expenses are one of the major non-medical tourism fees. Here is a comprehensive study of all the aspects related to vacation fees.

For medical tourists, it is difficult to prepare a comprehensive budget for the tourism activities. Firstly, it is necessary that you identify your spending capacity. Then you must have a clear idea about what proportion of the total expenditure your tourism activities are allowed to cost. A pre-planned budget will help you enjoy a smooth vacation and treatment as well. A service provider is usually the ideal person to guide you and your accompanying partner on how best to explore the destination.

Cost of food when budgeting for medical tourism

Food, water and other daily expenses based on your lifestyle and habits also contribute to total expenses. A small yet decent budget could be set aside to make sure that you indulge in good food and lifestyle activities while at your destination. Needless to say, you will need to adhere to medical guidance regarding your diet; it is advisable that you spend more to avail quality food to ensure your wellbeing.

Budgeting for unexpected expenses during medical tourism

The element of surprise resulting in unexpected expenditure is inherent to any vacation. However, when you consider that medical treatment is the essence of your tourism, budgeting for unexpected expenses becomes even more important. Medical tourists should keep “emergency funds” at their disposal for unforeseen circumstances.

Cost of companion expenses when budgeting for medical tourism

Did you forget to calculate the costs of having your companion escort you? Your travel companion will incur almost all the same costs as you except the medical costs. So if you are travelling with a companion you need to revisit all the above topics and see what companion expenses you will incur such as travelling, accommodation, meals and tourism activities.

Cost of travel and air ambulance insurance when budgeting for medical tourism

The travel insurance is very important to carry while you travel, as it can protect you from unforeseen expenses in case of an emergency. Just to remind you, travel insurance can’t help pay for medical tourism related expenses. Yet, travel insurance can protect you from further expenses arising from many unforeseen problems like cancelled flights, emergency conditions, natural disasters, financial defaults or accidents.

The air-ambulance insurance is related to emergency medical situations. It is generally suggested that patients who need to avail emergency air-ambulance service should opt for the air-ambulance insurance. It will ensure that in the case of an emergency situation the policy holder can avail a form of aircraft transport known as air-ambulance. It is somewhat similar to the vehicular ambulance but the only difference is that they can take patients to foreign lands for medical treatment.

On many instances patients decide to undertake emergency medical treatment in foreign lands. This is when the air ambulance insurance comes into play. This form of emergency travel has evolved to a great degree. In present scenarios they are used for emergency evacuation. This kind of preparation is absolutely important for a variety of possible circumstances.  Patients can be easily transported from one country to the other or from one hospital to a better one.

Cost of shopping and souvenirs when budgeting for medical tourism

Travelling without shopping takes away a good amount of charm. Collecting souvenirs is a hobby for many travellers. Shopping can substantially increase or decrease the budget for the entire medical trip. Patients must have a clear shopping budget set aside beforehand. This will save you from any last minute cash crunches. You must consider the cost of treatment and all other costs before budgeting for shopping.

One cannot deny that some foreign locations are specifically known for their local craftsmanship and wares. These could also provide good value for money in respect to certain items. If budget permits, you should try and include these items on your wish list. Try not to miss the opportunity to collect these local specialties while on your trip.

Shopping provides pleasure to the health, especially for the ladies, so it is worth accommodating shopping into your budget. But you need to have a clear idea about the potential costs of the items you wish you purchase.

On many occasions patients may be cheated into paying more for their purchases, because locals may take advantage of your lack of familiarity as a tourist. It might be a good idea to ask a local source to guide you as to the appropriate pricing. Alternatively the internet can also help give you an idea about the pricing of these products. Thus, it is wise to include the element of shopping with care.

Regarding souvenirs, remember that medical tourism is different from any ordinary tourism. Friends and family will certainly not expect a shower of gifts if the basis for your trip is treatment. So it may be nice to take this advantage for yourself and buy something which will help you to remember sweet memories from your medical trip.

Important tip when budgeting for medical tourism

In order to avoid getting duped, you must be cautious as to what you are paying for. ‘Research’ is one of the most important things you should conduct before creating a patient budget. You should try and make a comparative study of the fees charged by different medical institutions in various countries. Be sure to consider all the elements before selecting a medical tourism destination or healthcare facility. Searching for patient testimonials is one of the handiest methods of making an informed decision so you can follow real life experiences. Being well informed means making better choices at lower costs.





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Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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