KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL
DO I NEED TO GET ANY TESTS PRIOR TO TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY FOR MEDICAL TOURISM?
As mentioned before, you will require certain preoperative exams before your surgery. Depending on your age, health, and the type of procedure you are undergoing, you may require simple tests like a blood exam and an electrocardiogram, or more in-depth analyses that could include a thorax X-ray, ultrasound, gastroscopy and an evaluation by a psychologist among other things.
Ideally you should try to get your tests done before leaving for your Medical Tourism Trip. This will allow your overseas physician to be absolutely sure that you are fit for your surgery. Finding out that you’re not a candidate for a hip replacement – after flying half way around the world, can be an emotionally devastating experience. The truth of the matter, however, is that many medical tourism patients will opt for the convenience and lower cost of getting their preoperative exams done at the international hospital.
SHOULD I MAKE SURE MY DOCTOR AT HOME WILL PROVIDE AFTERCARE FOR ME ONCE I RETURN?
That is the ideal situation, unfortunately it is not always possible due to the stigma that medical tourism has for some doctors. As mentioned earlier, making your doctor an active participant in the medical tourism process is the best way to get him or her involved in your after care once you have returned home.
SHOULD I BRING A COMPANION ON MY MEDICAL TOURISM TRIP?
Yes, by all means do so if at all possible. The moral and physical support of a family member or a friend can do wonders for your spirit and probably even help speed up your recuperation time as well. For more invasive procedures such as heart surgery and hip and knee replacements, it would be ill advised not to.
Most international hospitals can provide various levels of assistance depending on your surgery and your particular needs. Moreover, a companion is not absolutely necessary for every type of procedure, and depending on your level of independence you can, in certain instances, get along fine without one. Make sure to check with your hospital liaison or medical tourism facilitator in order to see the type of assistance you will be receiving before and after your surgery, and whether or not they believe you will require someone to accompany you. If in doubt, bring someone along.
CAN I BRING MY CHILDREN?
You can but you probably shouldn’t. The level of stress you will be under is already great enough without throwing children into the mix. Of course, if your spouse is with you and your children are well behaved – or of a reasonable age to be well behaved, then this could be an option for you. Your destination and the type of activities available will also play into your decision. Do keep in mind that a hospital room is not a playground and you will need to find ways to keep your young ones occupied. Again, check with your hospital liaison to see their recommendation.
WILL I NEED TO PAY EXTRA TO HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER ACCOMPANY ME OVERNIGHT IN MY HOSPITAL ROOM?
Many international hospitals allow companions to stay overnight free of charge. However, check with your particular provider for details such as if meals will be included or not.
Where should I stay before and after surgery (hotels / recovery retreats)? Most international hospitals and some clinics will provide you with a list of accommodation options suited to your needs as a surgery patient, sometimes referred to as recovery resorts or recovery retreat. Hospitals with good international patient programs may go so far as arranging your lodging for you.
When choosing an accommodation, ask yourself the following questions:
ARE THE FACILITIES AND SERVICES CONDUCIVE TO YOUR WELLBEING AND OPTIMAL RECOVERY?
Depending on your condition this could mean limited or 24-hour nursing assistance, access to special diets, availability of handicap friendly facilities such as roll-in showers, a raised toilet seat, horizontal and vertical bars, and large spaces to move around easily with a wheelchair. Spotless sanitary conditions should also be a top priority.
HOW FAR IS THE HOTEL OR RECOVERY RESORT FROM THE HOSPITAL?
If you do have a complication, you want to make sure you can get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Ask your hospital liaison or medical tourism facilitator what contingency plans are in place for this. Traffic and driving conditions at some medical tourism destinations are…how should I say…a bit ”interesting” to say the least, so you will want to know how long it should reasonably take for you to get to and from your hotel. At the same time, you will want your hotel to be located in an area that is conducive to rest and relaxation, or simply safe for strolling about.
Some countries offer medical tourism patients the option of staying at so-called recovery retreats. These are usually all-inclusive facilities, sometimes located in the mountains or by the beach, that cater specifically to surgery patients. Costa Rica has been a pioneer in this type of aftercare concept, for many years attracting a large number of cosmetic surgery and dental tourism patients. In recent years, medical tourism patients undergoing more invasive procedures have also begun to explore this option.
This type of facility (recovery resort) is attractive for medical tourism patients who prefer personalized care and the opportunity to socialize with other people who are in a similar situation as they are. Are you sporting the results of an unsightly two day old facelift? Who cares, you’re sitting across the table from three others who look just as bad as you do. Not standing out from the crowd and the camaraderie that develops from exchanging stories, tips, and gossip, is for obvious reasons, an irresistible draw for cosmetic surgery patients.
You may ask, is this a good option for medical tourism patients with more invasive procedures, such as a total knee replacement? It depends, some recovery retreats may be located in mountainous areas, have limited wheelchair access, and require medical tourism patients to walk up and down stairs. Other retreats will not have these limitations and can be an excellent option for medical tourism patients who have undergone more invasive procedures.
When choosing between a regular hotel and a recovery retreat, keep in mind that the former was not built with medical tourism patients in mind, nor will it offer the personalized care and attention of the latter. Some people prefer this and are okay with the anonymity of a regular hotel. At the same time, a recovery retreat’s relative isolation from the “outside” world is sometimes seen as a drawback by some medical tourism patients and their family members.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME ON MY MEDICAL TOURISM TRIP?
What you need to bring will be dependent on your destination (weather), accommodations and other variables associated with a normal trip or vacation. However, traveling for surgery does require some important extras:
- Your medical information and/or lab tests
- Copy/originals of all medical reports and medication details
- CD copies of any scans like MRI/CT/ECHO
- Any referral notes from your doctor
- Eye Glasses/Contact lens equipment
- International Calling Cards Credit Cards
- Contact Information for friends, family, hotels, physicians, embassies, and airlines
SHOULD I BRING MY MEDICAL RECORDS?
The more medical history information you can bring the better. Remember, you will be meeting a new doctor who may know precious little about your condition except for what you’ve told him or from what you may have sent. The extent of information you should bring will depend on your condition and the type of procedure you will be undergoing. Therefore it is best to check with your primary and international physicians for their advice and requirements.
SHOULD I BRING A LAPTOP WITH ME ON MY MEDICAL TOURISM TRIP?
This is usually a good idea if you don’t mind lugging one around from place to place. Most hotels and hospitals catering to overseas guests will offer free or cheap internet access. This may take the form of a non descript room with computer terminals, a full-fledged business center, or possibly even wireless internet access throughout the hotel or hospital facility. Either way, a laptop will at least offer you some entertainment options if not a convenient way to stay in touch with friends, family, and business associates.