The Five Silliest Things We’ve Seen in Medical Tourism

Our firm really dislikes the term “medical tourism”.  If you stop to read many of the things written by medical tourism companies, the majority of comments aren’t about medicine.  There is more written about the location, luxury hotels and vacation stops.  It makes no sense.

Destination medical care is a serious discipline.  Even though people do not use the term often, we make destination medical care decisions every day.  Each time we seek care outside our community, make an appointment with a doctor in the next town because we can get in sooner, or travel across state or national borders to seek a level of care not present where we live, we’ve made a destination medical care choice.

Every so often, however, we see something coming from a medical tourism company that makes us scratch our heads.  Here are five of our favorites.

 1.  Recuperation Resorts & 2.  Cancer Cabanas

From the website of a medical tourism agency: “Suppose, for example, your medical trip cost you $14,000, medical tourismincluding treatment, travel, lodging and, of course, a two-week surgeon-recommended stay in a five-star beachfront recuperation resort.” (emphasis added)  Said another, “Imagine being able to rest in your own beachfront cabana while recuperating between (cancer) treatments.”

I love these.  My hospital bed is rolled poolside, the nurses serve tea, cookies and medications promptly at 4:00, and my IV comes with a little umbrella.  After physical therapy, the therapist applies my protective sunscreen.  It is also delightful that the author tossed in “of course” as if everyone would have understood the expectation and would have been disappointed to miss it.

3.  Insurer-paid Vacation

Here’s a nugget from a medical tourism company’s insurance company webpage: “There is no better way to gain the favor of patients than to offer them an all-expense paid trip to an exotic location…Insurers can cut costs while patients receive outstanding care and exciting travel opportunities.”

Which conversation do I want to eavesdrop on more?  Perhaps it is the insurance customer service agent during the hotel concierge’s call to verify benefits:  Agent – “Is what covered?  Two weeks at the Beachside Luxury Resort?  Room service?  Am I on Candid Camera?”

It could be the CFO talking to HR: “Tell me again, how did the Copa get in our top 10 providers?  And, why is our prescription benefit paying for sunscreen and pina coladas?”

It might also be the patient calling before leaving on his trip: “Can you tell me whether the hotel is in-network?  I still don’t understand why the luggage charges aren’t covered.  Is the resort fee covered?  Yes, I am serious.”

On second thought, I’m covered by the insurance carrier with which that medical tourism agency works.  My knee hurts a little.  Now, where is my ID card?  Is there a recuperation resort in Fiji?

4.  Surgical Safari

Forbes magazine coined this beauty (yes, the pun is intended) “where patients travel to South Africa to have cosmetic or orthopedic surgery, and then recuperate while on safari.”

Yep, shortly after hip replacement I’m riding an elephant through the jungle.  I suppose the nurse will be delivering my pain meds with a dart from a blowgun.

 5.  Activity Planning

A company specializing in cosmetic procedures offered this guidance, “Please be advised, depending on your surgery, you may not be able to enjoy certain activities, like bungy (sic) jumping, para sailing and the likes.”  Then there is the follow on advice to limit scuba diving, surfing or snorkeling.

I won’t question the wisdom of the advice.  That said, who are these people who plan on bungee jumping after a nose job or parasailing after lipo?  Is there really someone who thinks that implants double as a flotation device?  If surgery is involved, one of the last things I want to think about is anything that involves violent movement, being towed by ropes or going into salt water.  On the other hand, if my incision leaks, I could be on Shark Week.

When we read these comments and others, we see two distinct groups emerging.  One group sees medical travel as tourism, a luxury trip including discount medical treatment.  The second understands destination medical care is foremost about great hospitals and doctors focused on you.  When you consider this choice, ask yourself this question:  Am I traveling for pleasure or to regain the health I deserve?

If your in the group looking for serious medical care, contact us at Soter Healthcare.

On November 18, 2011, posted in: Uncategorized by
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