Embarking on a healthcare journey is a very important decision that you have made and it requires a lot of planning. In order to ensure thorough planning and proper organization, you need to gather a lot of information and conduct comprehensive research. A lot of information available through the internet or medical tourism advertisements carries the potential of bias. This makes it difficult for the medical tourist to differentiate between reliable and inconsistent information.
That’s why it is important that every potential medical traveller read this section as the various media whereby you can gather information are discussed here. Furthermore, it provides you with the necessary knowledge on uncovering accurate information from among the countless resources available to you. From the medical tourism business and consultancy perspective, you need to understand the proper ways and loopholes in information gathering and find ways to plug those.
In this medical tourism guide, you will read about:
Guide on How to get authentic information for medical tourism by Dr Prem – Important sources of information and other vital tips
Challenges in medical tourism, and why correct information can save your skin
Nothing in this world comes with benefits alone. As things are wont to be when concerning medical conditions, and complex trips, you obviously cannot rule out the chances of things going haywire in several stages – during your stay, when the treatment is in progress, and/or during post-operative care. The possibility of anything going wrong in a foreign land makes it prudent to be prepared for eventualities. The challenges are worth considering for anyone and everyone planning medical treatment overseas. A potential medical tourist should know about these to make the best out of his journey abroad.
It is important to note that countries may have varying authorization codes and quality measures across the globe, that one might not entirely feel comfortable with. Therefore, in the lack of effective regulations and standards for medical tourist destinations across the globe is likely to present a problem.
Proper medical tourism, however, does not fall into an entirely unorganized sector. As mentioned in a previous chapter, several hospitals are accredited by associations like JCI, ISO, or have affiliations with other major institutes. It is in the best interest of patients to look for, and consider only such accredited institutions that follow international standards for patient safety.
These problems and challenges not only include certain risks but one could face language and cultural barriers and problem with pre and post-operative care if things have not been planned meticulously. You might surely not know exactly as to what type of services a particular facility on a foreign land provides and of course, not the quality of the services either.
Also, you might be landing in a different environment altogether and you do not know whether your body will act in the new environment. You never know how active your immune system will be against the infections and other diseases prevalent in the destination country. You do not know their law, nor have time to know the same either.
Access to loads of information doesn’t ensure you the right access
Internet is a boon and a bane too. Everyone who is active on the World Wide Web knows this. Another thing that we all know is that the internet is a vast source of information. As the number of websites increases with each day, distinguishing between authentic sources and those that are less reliable is becoming increasingly difficult, even for the net savvy.
In such a situation, accessing the right information is not an easy task and patients face major problems accessing the right information while they search various websites for the availability of different treatments on many foreign medical tourism destinations. If you are a medical tourism facilitator, guide, or an agency, it is your responsibility to gather information on time and help medical tourists.
The lack of information regulation and the freedom to post anything on internet ends up in cluttered information that has the power to baffle a medical tourist. Therefore, accessing correct information is a challenge. The potential medical tourists should ensure that they access information from the right sources and never forget to crosscheck and confirm before they finally travel overseas to seek healthcare.
Advantages and disadvantages of seeking information from Medical Tourism Associations
Medical tourism has emerged as the best way to get healthcare overseas. Due to this enormous growth, we can see the rise in the number of medical travel companies or facilitators as well. These facilitators and agencies work to make the complex process of obtaining medical care overseas easy for medical tourists. A medical tourism facilitator takes care of the travel arrangements, lodging facilities, medical services, tourism activities and much more.
Like other things, medical tourism also has some advantages and disadvantages and some of them are listed below:
Advantages of medical tourism agencies or facilitators
- Many people use internet to search for health-related topics. These associations assist the potential medical tourists by providing them detailed information related to this sector.
- This acts as in formation portals for patients who desire to seek information and guidance related to the entire process of travelling overseas for receiving medical care.
- Medical tourism facilitators are quite familiar with the tourism and medical sector that is why they are the best persons you could get in touch for making your medical journey smooth and comfortable.
- The key benefit of hiring a medical tourism facilitator is the fact that you get to choose from a huge range of options and select the best course of treatment as per your affordability and convenience.
- A good facilitator will ensure patient safety guidelines by informing you of the agencies that provide excellent quality hospitals, skilled staff and highly qualified doctors or surgeons overseas.
Disadvantages of medical tourism agencies or facilitators
- The only disadvantage of these organizations is that they offer general and wide-ranging advice for medical tourists, which may not be applicable in your specific case.
- Some associations have social network platforms, which can provide you with more details about the type of support these associations provide to many patients.
- Many facilitators may recommend a particular institution or physician because they receive a commission or service charges from the hospital or physician. They recover these charges through medical tourists seeking treatment from that particular treating facility.
UK Study on Medical Tourism reveals lack of proper information related to health and financial risks
An extensive 2-year study on medical tourism has revealed some alarming information. The study reports that most individuals opting for medical tourism do so without proper knowledge of the health and financial risks involved in the process. The study was undertaken by a group from the University of New York and was supported by other prominent bodies like the Royal Holloway University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Birmingham and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Funded by the National Institute of Health Research, the study pointed out the impacts on the NHS of medical patients from the UK traveling abroad for medical procedures like dentistry, fertility services, bariatric surgery and cosmetic surgery etc. Given below are the main points that were highlighted in the 262-page report.
Lack of Proper Information about risks and rewards
The study pointed out that most medical tourists do not get proper information about the risks associated with medical tourism before embarking on their journey. Not many are even aware of the various complications they might face while undergoing treatment in these countries. The information as such is also poorly packaged so that a prospective medical tourist has little or no idea of how to handle an unforeseen emergency in the foreign land.
The team behind the study suggest that measures be taken to make travelers fully aware of details like the current NHS commissioning rules and eligibility criteria and any costs which patients might have to handle themselves (for ex: costs related to non-emergency care arising from poor outcomes of a treatment received abroad).
Lack of Proper Data
The study has openly criticized the data that has been collected on medical tourism so far, citing it to be biased and delivered by stakeholders who wish to gain monetarily by boosting the medical tourism industry.
This lack of reliable data would in turn lead to false hopes and promises, which go undelivered at the end of the day, therefore landing the patient in jeopardy. For instance, a publication by Deloitte indicated that nearly 6 million Americans would travel abroad for medical treatments by 2010 although there was not proof to support the data as well as no hints to know where the data was collected.
Misleading Medical Tourism Websites
The study also raised doubts about the authenticity of the information available on medical tourism websites. The team indicates that most of these websites do not actually clarify whether the treatment options would be safe, effective and personalized. The potential risks of various treatments are also not detailed clearly, thereby creating an imbalance of related information and marketing materials.
So how to get the authentic information? There are some usual as well as unusual ways. Let us have a look.
Using the internet to gather authentic information for medical tourism
Nowadays, the internet is the most commonly used medium of collecting information as it provides a wealth of resources. However, the major downfall of the internet is that none of the information is regulated. This is the main reason that patients could potentially be misled by false information regarding medical tourism.
It is necessary that you follow through with as much research as possible to gather the necessary information. This would likely involve surfing as many websites as possible and collating the data you access. However, patients need to utilize the Internet in a smart way and research only the websites that appear credible and accredited.
There are certain websites that have been accredited with a HON stamp which proves they have been authenticated as a legitimate website distributing accurate information. By collecting as much data as you can, you can compare the information you have gathered to determine the best option available.
In order to guarantee authentic websites, you can visit the sites of governmental and non-profit organizations online, as their aim is to provide patients with the most accurate information possible.
Use dedicated medical tourism websites to gather authentic information for medical tourism
There are dedicated medical tourism websites where patients can access an enormous range of impartial information related to medical travel. These sites also have information links that will connect you with hospitals, clinics, doctors/surgeons and facilitators as well as links to other health sites. These sites can further provide you testimonials of former patients and you can consult this feedback when making your medical tourism-related decisions.
Double check, cross reference and always get second opinions when gathering information on medical tourism
Once all the information is collected and collated from the internet, you should consult everything you have learned with your physician. If you have researched on your medical procedure, then your trusted GP will be the best person to either confirm or clarify the knowledge you have gathered.
If the research you have done has mainly been on a hospital or medical facility, a local physician can still help identify if those services claimed by individual hospital websites are possible and suitable for your condition.While searching the internet and collecting information, be sure to investigate the publisher of the information and to verify if it is balanced and accurate.
Ensure that the website is updated on a regular basis and find out when it was last updated. Medical tourism websites display the name of the doctors who are working at the facility along with the cost of the treatments. You can further validate the information via email or telephone.
Always go with a website that makes an attempt to communicate in a comprehensible language with patients; if not, you can safely assume their facilities and standards of care are of the same inferior grade.
Use patient testimonials when gathering information on medical tourism
To access patient testimonials, it is best to attend established medical tourism forums and discussions. Sometimes, news websites (such as NPR.com) carry stories on real-life patient experiences. It is more likely on these websites that you will find honest and accurate portrayals of the encounters patients have had during medical tourism. The patient testimonials on medical tourism service provider websites could potentially describe false statements to attract foreign patients.
Get first-hand information from a medical tourist with prior experience
Try to get in touch with medical tourists who had already gone through this venture. It could be from your family, friend circle or even from workplace contacts. You can also find them in Social media forums. Get connected and if possible, have a private one-to-one conversation. Medical tourism facilitators may also share a few contacts from their database if allowed to do so. Even if the destination and treatments differ, you can gather various other details from medical tourists.
Your local doctor may have useful connections
In many countries, local doctors also are connected with medical tourism facilitators, agencies, consultants, and advisors from where they can either get you useful contacts or themselves serve as a valuable source of information. They often refer certain cases for abroad medical treatments and remain in touch with the patients till they are back home after complete recuperation. Global centers of excellences are also in touch with local physicians to provide better post treatment support to medical tourists.
Get in touch with medical tourism facilities
Many reputed medical tourism facilities have a robust international patient department to provide all necessary information to medical tourists. They have extensive lists of their offerings, procedures, physicians, pricing, packages, and all listed in their websites. An email or a phone call can get you all required information at one shot.
How friends and family could provide information regarding medical tourism
Friends or relatives residing in your opted destination can be of great help. They might have much more knowledge about the quality of treatment and healthcare services available in that particular country or region. Thus, they can guide you and can help you in a better way.
You can easily address a range of problems with their direction and support and this includes accommodation, emotional, physical and financial support. In addition to this, friends and relatives at home also can provide a great support. They might know person who have already experienced medical tourism and were treated in your selected destination.
They are experienced one and can give you their honest opinion related to your decisions and can provide great emotional support during the tough times. You can make sure that the advice they give you will only be in your best interests, as they care about your wellbeing.
How can you use social media platforms to get authentic information for medical tourism
Facebook is the most common social media platform where sharing reviews and feedback happen most. Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn are also useful. You can check the social media page of various internationally reputed facilities, countries, facilitators, consultants, and agencies and check what others are saying about their service. Be aware of false reviews and spams as they could be highly misleading.
Reach out to established medical tourism facilitators, consultants or advisors
This is perhaps the best way to get authentic information for medical tourism. They handle various categories of patients regularly and are abreast of recent happenings and offerings. For example, the medical tourism destination of your choice may not be suitable for you to visit at a particular time for various reasons. Before you come to know about the fact, they will have every information in advance and suggest the right options helping you in proper planning.
Gathering authentic information for medical tourism may seem to be an overwhelming process. Instead of getting swayed by marketing gimmicks, be grounded always. Do your homework, apply your common sense and above all trust your intuition. Whatever information you gather should be based on strong logical reasoning.
Ways to collect authentic information for your medical trip
You can gather information from different channels and lot of them is easily available on internet. However, you have to make sure that the information is authentic. In this article, we will discuss about the various mediums whereby you can gather information.
After you have researched sufficient information from the internet, you can crosscheck the information with your local doctor. It is best to share all about your medical trip to him because he is the best person to either confirm or clarify the knowledge that you have gathered. In addition, if you have researched about the medical facility overseas, your local doctor will be able to identify if the claimed services or treatments are available. You can also consult a medical tourism facilitator or agency for more information.
One of the best ways to access accurate and verified information about the healthcare facility and treatment method or procedure is to go through the patient testimonials. To access this, the best way is to join in medical tourism forums and discussions. As a potential tourist, you can try to find a website or a forum, where many patients participate to share their experiences.
With an enormous growth in the medical tourism sector, several private and government hospitals have launched their own websites. The sole motive of these organizations is to help all potential medical tourists with their queries. These special websites allow all potential medical tourists to access a huge amount of fair information related to the intricacies of the medical travel. In addition, they also provide important information links. You can easily connect with reputed clinics, hospitals, doctors, physicians, surgeons, financing institutions and other information.
You can also move to other resources to seek important information and guidelines, such as internet. It is the best way to get authentic information. You as a potential medical tourist can seek testimonials online and can even verify its accuracy. You can communicate with the overseas facility provider directly to get all the important and accurate information.