Seeking medical treatment abroad might seem like a luxury to some of us, but for many around the world it can be a necessity. Poor medical facility standards, long wait lists, subpar access to care and high local costs are all reasons people may head overseas for their health needs. In Nigeria, the cost to the local system is $1 billion a year in lost revenue, yet what is it that people are paying for really?
There are a number of popular medical tourism destinations around the world. They are chosen for any number of reasons, but the most significant is the high standard of care for sometimes unbelievable savings. In this article, leading insurance broker Pacific Prime outlines the advantages of seeking medical treatment abroad, and highlights some well regarded Asian destinations for medical tourism.
Why medical tourism?
Gone are the times in which being ill or injured in a country forced you to a local hospital in order to be well again. Increasingly cheaper international travel fares are making it possible for all people, not just the wealthy, to consider medical care options outside of their home country for a number of reasons. Some may have concerns about the care available in the country in which they’re resident, such as:
▪ Long wait times
▪ Poor quality facilities
▪ Inadequate medical expertise
Others instead take the trip for the experience the foreign country offers:
▪ Access to the latest technology
▪ Personalized service
▪ Travelling opportunities
Often the reasons for travelling for medical care will be a mixture of these; fulfilling drawbacks in local healthcare options, and the opportunity to take advantage of overseas offerings.
Can it really be cheaper?
Depending on where you live, you might find that travelling abroad for care can provide some significant savings. How? Places like Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore will keep their medical fees low for the following reasons:
Low cost of living
Many of the countries offering discounted prices for medical care are either developing or previously developing nations. As such, their costs of living are well below those of developed Western nations. Turkey, for example, has consumer prices more than 70% lower than those same costs in the United States. This impacts on the cost levels that locals are willing to pay for care, and therefore foreigners benefit from cheaper care as well.
Competition, both internally and externally, are big drivers for keeping costs low. In Turkey, policies aimed at tackling a shortage of dentists in the 1970s has led to a near oversupply of them in recent times. As such, Turkey is a frequent destination for patients looking for dental work.
Finally, the governments in places like Singapore directly influence health care costs by the regulations they place upon the sector. The Singaporean Ministry of Health has been publishing hospital operating fees since 2003. This, in turn, means that healthcare providers are more transparent in what they charge and why. Patients and consumers benefit from savings as they more clearly know which facilities are cheaper.
What about the quality?
There’s no denying that some Asian countries can boast of a world class healthcare system. Singapore itself is consistently lauded for its outstanding medical sector, even being named by Bloomberg as number one in healthcare efficiency in the world. Malaysia was even noted for its international appeal for those seeking cosmetic surgery, dental work and dermatology – proving that it’s more than just routine operations in the Orient.
Staffing wise, you can also expect to be seen by medical experts trained by top schools overseas. Many hospitals and clinics in Singapore bolster their already well trained local doctors with foreign-trained specialists and experts from abroad to ensure their health care system remains world class. Those of you visiting Thailand will also find out why the country has been dubbed the “Land of Smiles”, something that extends to the customer service of its medical sector.
Medical tourism: How can I stay safe while overseas for care?
The best way to ensure that your medical tourism experience won’t be dampened by the unexpected is to secure health insurance coverage well before you leave. Although you may have the finances to cover the costs of the surgery you want, getting insurance can make sure that you’re not caught out should some unexpected costs arise.
Luther Putu is a Digital Marketing Executive for leading global health insurance broker Pacific Prime. Their expert advisors have over 15 years experience providing coverage in Asia, and can also provide quotes for coverage worldwide.