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Your Medical Tourism Trip - What to Expect


Most international hospitals and medical tourism facilitators will either include transportation and pick-ups in the cost of your procedure, or at the very least can point you in the right direction as to how to arrange this on your own. In most cases you will either go directly to the hospital for tests and/or consultation with your doctor, or to your hotel.

Are there risks of engaging in “tourism” activities before or after surgery? Whether alone or with a companion, there is a good chance that you’ll want to acquaint yourself with a country’s culture and attractions. If so, try to schedule your trip so that you have a few days before your medical tourism procedure to go sightseeing. Most international hospitals and medical tourism facilitators can assist you with making arrangements for tours. As far as touring after surgery, this will depend on your medical tourism destination, type of procedure, and the recommendations of your physician.

The fact is that some medical tourism destinations are simply better suited for touring than others. They have the infrastructure, services and experience to provide you with an enjoyable and safe trip – whether you’re a medical tourism patient or not. If you’ve undergone a relatively “mild” procedure such as a laparoscopic hernia repair or an eyelid lift, chances are you’ll be ready to engage in some light sightseeing tours after a few days of rest. No matter what your procedure, however, make sure to get your physician’s permission before engaging in any activities after surgery.

What kind of food will I be served while overseas? Are toasted locust and crispy larvae just a little too far off for your taste buds? Never fear. Most hotels and international hospitals will offer you a choice of various menu options including Western, vegetarian, and more exotic local fare. If you dislike or are allergic to certain types of food, then talk to your hospital liaison or medical tourism facilitator to make sure they know and are able to make proper arrangements.

During your hospital/clinic stay

How do I stay in contact with friends and family at home? Apart from a positive surgical outcome, there are few things more sacred to an international patient than the ability to remain in constant contact with family members and friends. Fortunately, with the dizzying advances in telecommunications technology, this isn’t hard to do.

For starters:

  • You can purchase pre-paid calling cards at home
  • Purchase calling cards at your overseas destination
  • Bring a roaming cell phone
  • The overseas hospital or medical tourism facilitator may provide you with a pre-paid cell phone
  • Through your laptop or a hospital computer you can send emails or talk to people using an internet phone service such as Skype.
  • Some hospitals even offer international patients free long distant calling

Will the hospital I am staying have internet access or TV?

What should I expect my room to be like? This will depend on your particular international hospital. As I discussed in a previous section, hospitals at popular medical tourism destinations are going all out to attract medical tourism patients so expect nicer rooms than you are used to at home. In general, you will probably have the opportunity to choose from several room-types (with different price ranges) including: shared rooms, spacious private rooms, suites, and in some cases luxury suites. These may include some or all of the below amenities:

  • Electronically adjustable beds
  • Computerized personal nurse call system
  • Bedside room light and TV controls
  • Individual cable television
  • Guest couch
  • Personal telephone for local and international calls
  • Individually controlled room air conditioning
  • Complimentary premium bathroom amenities
  • Personal medication cabinet

What kind of care will I receive after my surgery? In many ways the medical tourism process is very similar to what you may be used to at home. If your surgery is an inpatient procedure, expect to be taken to back to your room for recovery and for monitoring by the hospital nursing staff. Different hospitals will display varying post-surgery care protocols, however, expect the standards of care to be just as rigorous – if not more so, than at many North American hospitals. Don’t be surprised if your care is highly personalized either, as many international hospitals will have a higher nurse to patient ratio than you will normally find in the U.S or Canada.

The traditions and culture of your medical tourism destination will also play a role in the type of care you receive. The people of many third world, developing nations often exude a sense of warmth and friendliness that goes way above what you may be used to at home. By this I don’t mean to say that nurses in first world nations are cold or unfriendly, it’s simply that one’s behavior and mannerisms are often dictated by your cultural background and traditions. Those of us from Anglo-Saxon and Germanic descent, tend to be a little more aloof and rigid than many of our Latin American or Asian brethren.

Some international hospitals may even have an area dedicated to international patients, where you will be cared for by an English speaking nursing staff experienced in attending to medical tourism patients like yourself. Whereas surgeon visits in North America tend to be few and far between, expect your overseas surgeon to check up on your progress quite often. Rehabilitation therapy will also be available if you’ve undergone a procedure that requires scheduled therapy.

What if I require a blood transfusion?

No matter where you have your surgery there is always a risk that you may require a blood transfusion. For minimally invasive procedures the risk is very lower, however, the more invasive the procedure the higher the possibility that a transfusion could be necessary. This is especially true for medical tourism procedures such as open heart surgery or joint replacement surgery.

Whether or not you feel you are at a high risk for requiring a blood transfusion, you should ask your chosen hospital what type of safeguards they have in place to ensure an uncontaminated blood supply, and, what type of viruses are screened. Presently most blood banks screen for the following diseases: HIV-1 and HIV-2 (the viruses that cause AIDS), hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human T-cell lymphotropic viruses (HTLV-I and HTLV-II), ALT (the level of a liver enzyme), and syphilis.

Does the hospital have air conditioning?

Electricity – Do I need Adaptors for different voltage?

Will I be able to use VOIP? (Voice over IP) to call home through the internet?

What paperwork should I take when I leave the hospital?

What personal stuff will I be able to buy in the hospital? At most international hospitals expect to have access to a pharmacy and /or convenience shop where you can purchase toiletries and other personal items such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste

Aftercare & Medical Tourism

What will the aftercare be like overseas after my surgery? Depending on your particular hospital and or surgery package, you will either spend most of your recovery time at the hospital, or more likely, you will transfer to a hotel or a recovery facility for the remainder of your stay. This only makes sense as a night in the hospital may cost two or three times more than one at a hotel or recovery retreat. Studies also suggest that longer hospital stays increase your risk of infection or contracting an illness. Bottom line, if your doctor says you are good to go – then go.

Will I have to pay for hotel costs after surgery? This will depend on the medical tourism procedure package you purchase through your international hospital or medical tourism facilitator. Even if your package does include the cost of post surgery lodging, it doesn’t hurt to check and see if you can save money by purchasing your lodging separately.

Will rehabilitation therapy be included in my medical tourism procedure package? Again, this will depend on the particular hospital you choose. Orthopedic procedures such as hip and knee replacements will require extensive rehabilitation therapy, so make sure to ask if this will be included as part of your procedure package.

What if a complication happens while I am overseas? In the event of a medical tourism complication, your international hospital and physician will arrange for proper action to be taken. It is therefore important to have a list of hospital contacts with you while you are recovering at your hotel. Some medical tourism complications may be very minor and require nothing more than a short doctor or nursing visit to your hotel. Other complications may require that you be interned again in the hospital.

What are the risks of flying after surgery? As discussed above, the principal dangers of flying after surgery are deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Please refer above to “What are the risks of medical tourism” for more information.

Do I need to fly business or first class after my surgery? Depending on the type of surgery you have undergone, it may be wise to purchase tickets in first or business class. This is especially true for orthopedic procedures such as hip and knee replacements, cardiac surgery, and neurosurgery – where you need to be comfortable and require extra space.

Should I request a wheelchair for my return trip? If you’ve undergone any medical tourism procedure that limits your mobility such as the surgeries mentioned above, don’t hesitate to request a wheelchair from the airline or through the hospital or facilitator. Believe me; you will be happy that you did.

What do I do if I have complications upon returning home? The ideal scenario is to have an aftercare protocol arranged with your doctor before you leave for your surgery trip. Some international hospitals may offer aftercare options. If you have traveled under a medical tourism program with your insurance carrier or employer, then your primary doctor will be the first person to call. He will then arrange to speak to your international doctor if he requires more information about your condition. If you have initiated your Medical Tourism Trip on your own, or through a facilitator, and do not have a primary doctor at home, then, you will want to contact your overseas physician and hospital for their recommendations (assuming the complication is not life threatening in which case you should immediately seek local emergency care).

Can I speak to my international provider after I come home? Many international providers will follow-up with you periodically to make sure you are doing well. They should also provide you with a contact in case you have any questions or concerns. This may be someone from the hospital’s internationals office or even your overseas physician.