Your Travel Guide To Medical Tourism

Getting medical treatment in a foreign country is a task full of intricacies. There are risks in traveling away from one's home area for medical care or wellness services. Precautions need to be taken to avoid legal troubles and infectious diseases. One also has to do research on the travel details for minimising hindrances and having a stress-free experience.


Managing the travel is simple if you have the answer to certain questions that can determine the success of your medical travel abroad. Any risks in your trip can be easily averted by taking necessary precautions and by engaging in thorough planning. Here’s a summary of the factors that need to be taken into consideration.



1. Is the flight direct or does it include stopovers? What is the duration?


The duration and continuity of your flight can influence your well-being by a great deal. This is why it is of paramount importance for you to know the duration of your flight. You should also know whether your flight has stopovers or not because stopovers add to the time taken to reach your destination.


Longer flights mean sitting in the same position for longer periods. This can result in complications like Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a condition where a blood clot forms in the veins of legs and it can also work its way up to the heart or lungs.


If you are in for a long-haul flight, you need to take greater care of your health. You must make sure that you get up from your seat at regular intervals and take a walk. Other than this, you should make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the flight.


Another aspect that needs to be taken into consideration is whether your flight will be non-stop, direct with a stopover or a connecting flight.


  • Non-stop flights are the most expensive but are the fastest. They are usually the most efficient alternative out of these three because they are the fastest and the scope for delay of flights is the lowest.

  • Direct flights with a stopover are usually cheaper than the non-stop flights. However, if you are getting a non-stop flight and a stopover flight at the same price, choosing the direct flight is always a better option.

  • Connecting flights are those which take at least two different planes with two different flight numbers. These are the cheapest but take a significantly longer time because of long layovers. Connecting often means landing in one terminal, then taking a train or a long walk to another. Connecting flights are the least desirable in terms of convenience but the most desirable in terms of price.


Considerations about the nature of your flight is important depending on your medical condition. If you are a patient who requires additional oxygen supply, a flight with stopovers would be better than a non-stop flight for minimising the risks of reduced oxygen supply over long periods. Therefore, you need to consider these aspects for choosing the optimal flight for yourself.


2. What arrangements in flight does your medical condition call for? Would you require a wheelchair? How do you request one?


For passengers with medical conditions that make them incapacitated in any manner, every effort is made by flight attendants to make their journey comfortable and all necessary arrangements are made in advance. These include wheelchairs, stretchers or incubators, additional oxygen supply for passengers whose medical condition requires additional oxygen supply, and seeing-eye dogs to lead the passengers with an impaired vision.


Incapacitated Passengers shall be defined as those with a physical disability or a neurological disorder or with a medical condition, who require individual attention or assistance on emplaning/deplaning, during the flight and during ground handling, which is normally not extended to other passengers. This requirement will be apparent from special requests made by the passenger or by their family or by a medical authority at the time of making a booking.


In case you require a wheelchair, you should pre-book wheelchairs at the time of flight booking or ticket issuance to avoid last minute delays or non availability of wheelchairs. In order not to violate the civil rights of passengers with disabilities and for a barrier free environment, charges are generally not levied for the use of wheelchairs at airports for passengers travelling in any class.


If you need mobility assistance to help you through the airport, it is prudent to request it once you have made your booking so that the service can be provided.



3. Do you have a visa?

The governing bodies in some countries issue special medical tourist visas to the foreign patients in order to promote medical tourism in their country.

A medical visa is given to those who travel to other countries for medical treatment. Therefore it is essential to obtain it in case you are planning to get medical treatment in a foreign country. The requirements to obtain a medical visa vary with different countries and you need to do your research on the same.


A medical visa can differ on many aspects from one country to another and often within the country itself, depending upon the kind of medical visa you apply for. The visa can be single or multiple entry. A multiple entry visa allows you to bring a blood relative along whereas a single entry visa does not. The duration of the visa is also a variable factor and depends upon the discretion of the issuing authority. It can vary from a few weeks to more than a year.


It is thus essential to take your visa requirements into consideration before embarking on the plane and choose the optimal kind of visa for yourself based on the aspects mentioned above.



4. Are you protected against infections? Do you know about any infections that manifest the country?


You can stay healthy during travel by taking the right steps to protect yourself before you go and at the time of your travel. Most infections you catch while traveling are minor. In rare cases, however, they can be severe. Diseases vary in different places in the world. You will need to take different preventive steps depending upon where you are going.


Different aspects that you should consider are the local climate, sanitation level, and manifestation of dangerous insects and parasites in the country you’re planning to go to.


You must talk to your healthcare provider about the precautions to take for your trip. You can also visit a travel clinic a few weeks before you leave for your trip to enquire about the same. You may need several vaccinations, some of which need time to work. Besides this, you need to make sure that any food items or drinks you consume are hygienic. Consuming contaminated food or water can also lead to various infections.



5. Do you know about the laws of travel medicine? Are you carrying the necessary medications with you?

While travelling, a patient should always carry with him a personal medical kit comprising of his/her regular medications, medicines specially prescribed for the trip, etc.


The prescription drugs that you are consuming in your own country may be illegal in the country you’re planning to go to. This is why you need to be thoroughly informed about the medicine laws specific to the country you’re planning to go to.


Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the purview of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System and has the potential to be abused. Searching out the regulations of your destination country can be a complex task. For this, you can refer to the INCB guidelines in case you’re travelling with narcotics or psychotropics. INCB guidelines provide valuable information on all kinds of drugs which are under the purview of international law.


You also need to keep in mind that certain countries permit taking only a 30-day supply of certain medicines and require carrying a prescription or an import license certificate. During your stay in your destination country, do not stop taking your medication and make sure that the medication required is readily available in the destination country. Knowing about medicinal laws is of paramount importance for avoiding lawsuits. 


Thus, travelling for getting medical treatment abroad can be a relatively simple process if reasonable measures are taken in time. All you need to do is to know what measures to take and now you do.

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