Medical tourism is the process of travelling outside your country of residence for the purpose of receiving medical care. There are various reasons why patients engage in medical tourism, including accessibility to more advanced medical facilities, better-qualified providers and higher hospitality standards.

But what questions should you ask before becoming a medical tourist?

Step 1: Diagnosis

What medical condition do you have? Which procedure do you need to undergo in order to treat it? As a patient, these are important questions to ask before receiving medical care abroad.

If you have already received domestic care, we recommend that you request a copy of your medical record and any other relevant supporting documents, such as X-ray, MRI, CAT or PET imaging reports. Such information will be helpful in your medical tourism consultation.

Step 2: Physician discovery: Quality of care

Who should you approach to receive the medical care that you seek? Create a concise list of physicians who specialize in treating your condition or conducting your required procedure.

A critical deciding factor would be the volume of procedures a physician has conducted. Practice makes perfect and choosing an experienced physician greatly minimizes the risk of procedure complications.

You should also look into the professional qualifications a physician holds and determine if he or she is qualified to treat your condition or conduct your procedure. Be sure to check a physician’s professional reputation with official bodies and read online reviews to uncover any legal actions or poor experiences with the physician.

Accreditation is another component to lok at if you are seeking medical care at a hospital. Recognised accreditation systems include the Joint Commisiion International (JCI) and International Organisation for Standarisation (ISO).

These criteria will provide you with a good understanding of the quality of medical care you can receive in your home country versus overseas, and aid you in selecting the physicians likely to give you the best outcome possible.

Step 3: Physician discovery: Cost of care

What about the costs of receiving quality medical care? Begin by contacting those who rank higher on your list, starting from your most preferred physician, to obtain an estimated price quotation and a sense of the physician’s availability. At the same time, you should evaluate and determine your personal finances. Physicians often charge medical tourists significantly more than domestic patients, so be cautious when requesting and comparing pricing.

If a physician is based overseas, then you should additionally enquire on the post-procedure recovery time so that you can plan your travel dates.

Step 4: Seek support

In finding medical care abroad, some people seek a trusted partner, such as a medical tourism company or agent. The potential benefits include finding a high quality physician for your condition or procedure and securing preferred pricing.

When considering such support, you will want to evaluate how this partner is paid and whether they have detailed information on physician quality and cost. Ideal partners will include detailed information on quality including physician training, credentialing, and number of relevant procedures. Preferred partners will also guarantee lower pricing than you can secure on your own, including being paid by the provider and not you, and having contractual guarantees that the provider will charge you the lowest price they charge anyone for a given consultation or procedure.

Step 5: Mobilisation

Assessing all the abovementioned criteria - including procedure volume, professional qualification, professional reputation, hospital accreditation and price - you are now ready to make an informed decision and secure a medical appointment with your preferred physician.

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