Understanding Medical Tourism
For those Canadians suffering from chronic conditions, degenerative disorders or aches resulting from an injury, lingering pain can prevent living life to its fullest. In an ideal world, every surgical treatment would be done immediately and patients would be allowed to return home afterward to heal. Across Canada, hospitals and clinics are seeing increased wait times for surgical care, leaving patients to wait, months, or years for treatment. Instead of suffering through prolonged wait times, more and more British Columbians are choosing medical tourism as an alternative option.
At its most basic, medical tourism can be defined as the process of travelling outside of a home country for the purpose of seeking medical care. In the past, medical tourism trips were often carried out by those living in less developed countries, travelling to more developed destinations for medical procedures. These trips were often carried out due to a lack of available equipment, doctors, or due to issues of legality. Now, the landscape of these trips is beginning to look a little different.
Reasons for Medical Tourism
It is a common misconception that the Canadian health care system is universal in the same way that some other countries are. Seeking medical treatment is not as simple as walking into a clinic and booking an appointment for knee replacements or a disc replacement. Between high wait times, unexpected costs, and the availability of certain treatments, the medical tourism industry has begun to blend business with pleasure, allowing patients to take control of their medical care.
There are generally two types of medical tourists: those that are seeking lower cost treatments and those that are hoping to avoid prolonged wait times, but there are several reasons to seek medical care, from a reputable and reliable source, outside of Canada.
Cost: Some of the most common reasons that patients seek out-of-country care range from needing care that is not completely covered by insurance. Seeking medical care in the United States, for example, can result in thousands of dollars of uninsured costs. Reduced costs for quality medical care in other countries can help to mitigate expenses.
Ease of Travel: As travel becomes increasingly affordable and easy to do, the prospect of going elsewhere for medical care becomes less daunting. In some cases, patients may be entitled to reimbursements from participating insurance companies. for expenses associated with medical travel. In fact, there are whole companies that act as facilitators for medical tourists, helping to organize travel, book procedures and help to arrange for aftercare.
Types of Care: It is simple enough to visit a Canadian hospital for an X-Ray or scope but with treatments that are less common, more involved, or more in-demand, residents can be left waiting for extended periods of time. Some of the most common practices to be performed outside of a home country can be anything from cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, stem cell based procedures and surgical care.
Wait Times: In Canada, wait times are a huge incentive for many residents. Depending on where you find yourself within the Great North, wait times can range from weeks, to months and even years. This is due to an overburdened and overloaded medical system, but these high numbers leave patients out in the cold. It is thought that medical tourism can help to mitigate these wait times and help to relieve the medical system, all while allowing Canadian patients to improve their quality of life and get back to pain-free days.
Traveling For Surgery: Can You Expect the Same Care?
One of the major barriers for patients seeking out medical care in another destination, is the illusion of lower quality care. No matter how you see it, tourism is a great boost for any economy. Beautiful beaches and thriving nightlife are reasons enough to visit a new destination, but more and more countries are seeing the advantages of medically-based visitors and are committed to providing high quality treatments, both in doctors and surgeons and in state of the art facilities.
In the past, there have been thoughts that surgery centres abroad do not have the same equipment, sanitation practices or education processes that are expected in more developed countries. This is no longer true. You can expect the same level of education in a surgeon or surgical tech in the Cayman Islands, that you can in Canada.
In the same way that there are preferred surgical centres across Canada, there will be “better” clinics abroad. If you are willing to travel, surgical care is not to be entered into lightly, and that is where working with a reputable facilitators is always an excellent idea.