In recent years, destination medical care using international hospitals and doctors emerged as a serious alternative for men and women around the globe. Unfortunately, destination medical care is often grouped with its less serious relative, which the media and many companies refer to as medical tourism. As a result, there has not been a great deal of well written information about destination medical care as a serious discipline. It’s time to dispel a few of the myths.
Myth 1: Destination medical care is a new development.
Reality: Americans make destination medical care decisions regularly. In fact, it has become so commonplace in today’s society we do not even think of traveling for care when we need it as an issue. What is new is that travel today makes it easy to reach international hospitals that once seemed too far away.
Myth 2: Destination medical care is only for the uninsured.
Reality: Both insured and uninsured people stand to benefit from the access, affordability and quality of medical care associated with destination medical care. Patients with high deductible health plans can realize significant savings. Others with limited medical plans, sometimes called mini-meds, can stretch the amount of care that can be secured. Patients can access care without extended wait times at hospitals delivering medical outcomes among the best in the world, regardless of whether they have insurance or not.
Myth 3: Destination medical care’s lower cost means low quality.
Reality: The comparison is almost unfair, in large part, because US medical costs are among the most expensive anywhere in the world. In contrast, where costs of living are much lower, hospital costs are subsidized by governments, and national insurance arrangements reduce the impact of unpaid medical bills, expenses for medical care are also much lower. Premier hospitals spanning the globe offer exceptional medical care and attention. Michael. D. Horowitz, MD, MBA, a cardiothoracic surgeon who studies international medical care states, “It is naïve to think that just because someone practices elsewhere they are not as well-trained, qualified, or artistic as a physician in the United States.” In fact, some international hospitals deliver long-term medical outcomes that meet and exceed those of America’s best hospitals. The key is being able to find and access those providers.
Myth 4: Destination medical care is a recreation or desperation choice.
Reality: Both the American Medical Association and American College of Surgeons recognize the benefits of destination medical care. It is not a medical vacation or a last resort effort. The American College of Surgeons described it by writing “Residents of the US may choose to pursue medical care abroad for a variety of reasons, including..lack of services available at home; limits imposed..on access to certain specialists, treatment protocols, equipment or services; prolonged waiting periods, lower costs of care and personal reasons.”
Myth 5: My doctor at home won’t provide follow-up care.
Reality: We hear this myth repeated a lot, most of the time by people who understand very little about destination medical care. Doctors treat patients who received care at other hospitals, including vacationers who received treatment abroad, on a regular basis. Dr. Kevin Huffman, a bariatric surgeon, commented, “As doctors, we really don’t recognize or care that a patient received treatment from a qualified surgeon. Our worries come when we have to clean up a surgery performed badly by a poor doctor.” In our own research, we have not found a single physician who indicated he or she would refuse to treat a patient after learning about our proprietary credentialing process and arrangements to keep the home and destination doctors connected throughout a patient’s international care.
It’s hard in any new field to sort out the reality from the hype. We’ll be glad to answer questions you have about whether destination medical care can benefit you.