Low cost, one of the main benefits of medical tourism, is also the leading factor responsible for its rapidly growing popularity. Patients benefit considerably from flying to another country and taking advantage of low cost surgery prices, whilst recuperating on holiday. Prices for elective surgeries abroad can cost significantly less than the cost quoted for the same in the home country, even when adding the cost of flights and accommodation.
Many a times, patients enter into an agreement without getting proper information about the procedure and the entire expenditure of the trip. One should take into consideration the costs for treatment as well as the routine costs of travel, accommodation and other expenses when booking a treatment.
Medical tourism will certainly allow you to save considerably and get you access to advanced equipment and facilities along with better quality personalised services abroad. But, one must be sure to ask the right questions and be prepared for the scheduled trip, as well as for any unexpected expenses. Generally, the expenses of a medical tourism trip are the same as those incurred on any international travel or vacation. This includes costs like the airfare, hotel accommodations, transportation requirements and meals.
Different Costs In A Medical Travel
1. Traveling And Airfare
Governments of many countries provide special relaxation on the travel and tourism package costs, to the incoming medical tourists.
In general, the farther away your medical tourism destination is from home, the more you might need to pay for airfare. For example, expect to pay more if you are flying from Kuwait to the US or the UK than you would for a flight to Bangkok, Thailand or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the same time, you also need to take into account that airfare of some medical tourism destinations will cost more than others. This may vary depending on the airline you choose, the class in which you fly, standard of expenditure at your destination, etc.
With widespread air travel and emergence of low priced airlines, movement of people for vacationing or medical purposes across international borders is unchallenging.
2. Visa And Passport
The costs of visas for medical treatments depends on various factors like the the type of visa, nature of medical treatment, local laws, etc.
A key concern faced by those seeking medical tourism is visas. Though short-term medical treatments are usually permitted even with tourist category visas, for complex treatments, multiple entry or longer stay may be required. You can consider the new e-visa regime in countries like India and Singapore, as an option for insuring short-term medical treatments.
The required documentations for visa as well as their costs, can vary depending on each specific case. This includes costs of health assessments, police certificates, or any other certificates or tests. You should wait for at least four weeks for the processing of your application, and should by no means finalise any travel plans before your visa and/or passport is approved.
Do you plan to stay at a five star hotel or are you comfortable with a budget friendly bed and breakfast? Your lifestyle preferences, as well as the type of medical tourism procedure or medical tourism treatment you are undergoing, plays a large role in your decision of where to stay and what you will do.
A medical traveler undergoing open heart surgery or a knee replacement will require extra care and very comfortable conditions after leaving the hospital. However, such will not be the case for someone coming for a dental bridge or an eyelid lift. Wherever you decide to stay, make sure it serves your needs as a patient.
Certain international hospitals also provide a range of in-patient accommodation from sharing rooms to private, deluxe, super deluxe rooms. Hospital rooms in accredited hospitals are generally designed with the patient’s comfort and safety in mind. They cater to the special needs of patients, family and visitors and also help in booking accommodation in good quality hotels near the hospital.
Transportation costs in relation to medical expenses, are incurred while reaching a medical treatment facility. These include travel to a doctor’s office or the hospital where you will receiving medical care.
Certain hospitals or medical tourism facilitators offer to make arrangements for airport pick up, which would require the following details :
On arrival, patients are received by their representative and taken to the hospital or hotel as per the consulting doctor’s treatment advice, communicated via email/fax/telephone. Most hospitals also have ambulance arrangements made for patients requiring assistance.
Before heading home after your procedure, be sure to schedule sufficient time for your procedure and recovery. As you plan your trip, ask the physician how much recovery time is advised for your particular treatment. It is advisable to add a few extra days, just to be on the safe side.
Keep in mind the duration of the actual procedure as well as the recovery time needed before traveling back home. Most below-the-waist surgical procedures such as hip and knee replacements recommend no flying for a week or more. If they recommend 10 days recuperation near the clinic, don’t plan to go home any earlier.
Most hospitals arrange for food and beverages as per a patient’s requirements and their preferences. The hospital’s dietary/catering department shall arrange for food based on their nutritional assessment and taste preference.
Hospitals aim to feed patients in a way that is nutritionally balanced, broadly appealing, cost effective and easy to assemble. There is a wide range in what the various hospitals spend on providing three meals a day to patients. While certain international hospitals also offer a choice menu of exquisite cuisines, a high cost in other local hospitals doesn’t necessarily mean good food. The best patient meals are often those that are freshly cooked in a hospital's own kitchen. Patient meals cooked in this way are often also the cheapest to make, because they give hospital cooks the option to find the best deals from local suppliers.
Many hospitals have adopted an approach known as ‘rethermalization’ where hospital kitchens focus on the assembly and reheating of pre-prepared, frozen foods using special ovens. The “kitchenless” hospital has been described as an innovation that can save hospitals about 20% of food services costs!
6. Medical Services/Treatment
In the US, UK or Europe, treatment can be delayed due to long waiting lists and travelling to other countries like Singapore, Thailand, India to get faster treatment along with quality service and a low cost in a better option. While prices vary from hospital to hospital, following are the costs of procedures, as compared to US:
Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery
$73,400 : U.S
$4,500 : India
$57,000 : U.S
$9,000 – $10,000 : India or Thailand
$88,000 : U.S
$31,500 : Costa Rica
$34,000 – $50,000 : U.S
$9,500 : Costa Rica
$9,000 – $14,000 : other countries
$33,000 – $40,000 : US
$12,400 : Thailand
$10,000 : Switzerland
$7,700 : Spain
$10,500 : U.S
$4,200 : Mexico
$10,000 – $15,000 : U.S
$5,600 : Taiwan
$5,000 – $8,000 : Thailand or India
$6,200 : US
$2,800 : Mexico
Depending on your actual procedure, the final price of your treatment could include :
7. Additional Complications And Overstay
You must ensure that you have a written agreement with the health care facility or the group arranging the trip, defining what treatments, supplies, and care are covered by the costs of the trip. Also remember to ask upfront if the quoted price includes costs for any possible complications like post-surgical infection.
While medical tourism is a significantly low priced alternative, you need to keep an eye on costs of medications in the foreign medical facility and for longer hospital stay or extra care.
While delivering a baby in Panama, you can expect to spend US$2,500 to US$4,500 for private care without insurance. This higher rate includes a cesarean with minor complications. However, can get this down to US$1,500 by going to a birthing center at your destination.
8. Post Treatment Therapies And Recuperation
Recovery and follow-up are just as important as the treatment procedure. Other details you need to know are:
If you are taking an expensive medicine, it is more budget friendly to get an identical drug which isn’t the generic, but an identical pill. E.g. The average price for Lipitor, for example, is US$124 in the U.S. In New Zealand, you can get it for US$6.
9. Pre And Post Consultation
Various destinations have different care packages and they charge differently for their pre and post consultation charges.
Pre-operative Consultation usually includes:
Post Treatment Consultation includes:
Treatment costs abroad usually include all the costs related to the treatment, such as the labour and other human resource services of the care personnel as well as the costs for facilities, meals, housekeeping, hospital clothing and linen. Separate fees may also be charged for all treatment supplies, procedures and medicines. Interpretation costs and translation costs for patient documents are also commonly included in the invoicing. Hence no further tipping is necessary.
All such differences in costs for the same service, at a better or same level of quality and professionalism, can only lead to growth in medical tourism. Your particular lifestyle, the medical tourism destination, and the type of medical tourism procedure you will be undergoing will dictate, to a large degree, how much money you will be spending.