Health care is one of the top priorities for any expat. But where can you find the world’s best health care? We take a look at the medical tourism industry, and overseas countries with the best hospitals and doctors.
What Is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism is a rapidly-growing industry. Recent estimates believe the industry to be worth between $45.5-72 billion worldwide. An estimated 1.4 million Americans travelled overseas for medical treatment in 2017. Although the numbers for 2018 aren’t in, a 25% increase on 2017’s numbers is likely.
Going abroad for medical care is a new trend. A few years ago the idea was almost unheard of. Today, Americans are discovering their health care needs can be better served overseas.
The primary force driving this new market is lower cost. Prices in the U.S. are at an all-time high, with no sign of decreasing. Going overseas, can generate savings of up to 90% in Asia and as high as 65% in Mexico and Central America.
How Are Countries Abroad Able To Offer Health Care At Such Discounted Rates?
U.S. health care has become seriously compromised. Two main reasons are usually cited for this. Excessive regulation, and the influence of big pharmaceutical companies.
Regulation is necessary and helpful, but over-regulation is counter-productive. In comparison with other countries, the U.S. has gone too far with some of its regulations. For example, the U.S. has a limit on how many times a surgeon can operate in one day. A heart-surgeon can only perform one open heart surgery per day. The logic behind this is sound, to ensure a surgeon isn’t too tired to perform his work.
In other countries this regulation doesn’t exist. A surgeon is free to operate more than once during his shift. Interestingly, the success rate in India, where a surgeon can operate more than once per day, for open heart surgery, is higher than in the U.S.
This allows hospitals in India to perform heart surgeries on a conveyor belt process. More surgeries allows the hospitals to buy equipment in bulk, another way they lower the cost. The hospitals also get better value for money. Their surgeons are better practiced and allowed to work all day. These savings make things less expensive for the patient.
Slightly more controversial is the influence of big pharmaceutical companies. These guys have made fortunes from the health care industry. From 2003 to 2012, the top eleven Big Pharma corporations made a net profit of nearly $750 billion dollars.
It often seems that Big Pharma companies view patients as little more than customers. There is the famous case of the drug, Daraprim that went from $13.50, to $750 overnight.
But it’s not only patients that Big Pharma have under their control. Doctors often rely on drugs companies for their diagnosis and for after-care. Hospitals fell pressure to buy expensive medications, not always in their best interests.
As well as producing drugs, Big Pharma companies hold subsidiary companies. These manufacture everything from prophetic limbs to implants and syringes. It’s fair to assume profit is their main concern in every area.
Problems With Health Care In The United States
Patients often criticize the impersonal nature of American health care. A frequent complaint is the lack of time spent with the patient at all stages of treatment. This attitude to diagnoses and lack of after care are big concerns. They are also areas where overseas health care excel.
Doctor’s make a connection with their patients and talk them through the procedure. In many Latin American countries appointments always run late. But there is a good reason for it. The doctors make sure they take take time to answer every question from their patient. They want their patients to be at ease with the course of action.
During the aftercare period, your doctor will call in on you and check everything is going well. This means no pressure to ensure you take a certain range of drugs. You can also be sure your prescription is best for your needs and not the financial needs of the hospital.
As for the doctors themselves, they are of the same standard as you would find in the States. Usually, the doctors have been at least partly trained in the States. The reliance on medical tourism means that even staff who’ve not trained in States speak English.
What’s The Standard Of Health Care Like Overseas?
The hospitals in the countries we mention, are modern with up-to-date equipment. This compares well to hospitals in the U.S., where infrastructure has fallen behind.
The problem of drive-by doctoring isn’t something you will encounter overseas. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, let me explain. It involves a patient getting visits from various specialists whilst bed-ridden in the aftercare stage. These specialists ask how the patient is feeling, then add their consultation charge to the patients bill.
The main reason for going abroad for health care remains the price. India and Malaysia can offer savings of up 80-90%. If this is too far to go, you can get savings of up to 65% in Mexico and Costa Rica. To put this in context, you can get a first class return flight. Book into a luxury spa for your rehabilitation and still pay less than the treatment in the States. Not marginally cheaper, either.
Don’t Get Greedy
A word of warning though. Going overseas is enough of a bargain. Don’t to try and save even more money by going for the cheapest treatment. It’s worth remembering the old adage “you get what you pay for”. Pay for the best treatments and let the savings compared to the States be enough.
Medical tourism in France is a fairly new industry and looks set to become more popular in the coming years. France is at the forefront of all aspects of health care. Its health care system is usually ranked as number one in the world. Currently France gets most of its medical tourists from North Africa. More people are arriving from the U.S. and rest of Europe.
One of the biggest advantages to medical tourism in France is you don’t have to wait for an appointment. You need to book just 10 days in advance, making France the shortest waiting times anywhere in the world. EU citizens with a European Health Card stand can claim a refund of up to 80%.
France maintains its standard of care by spending close to 12% of its CDP on health care. This is more than most of its neighboring countries. Perhaps this is why France has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Males have a life expectancy of 79 years when they are born and females 85 years. These numbers should continue rising.
Singapore was the first country to truly adopt medical tourism. It still enjoys some advantages of being first to the market and is well established in the industry. However, other countries are joining the medical tourism rush. Singapore no longer has everything completely its own way. Malaysia and Indonesia are rapidly improving their services, and offering more competitive prices. Indonesia and Malaysia are decent alternatives looking to become some of the world’s best health care providers. They are likely to overtake Singapore soon.
As well as the standard medical tourism options, Singapore offers luxury medical tourism. One hospital shares a kitchen with a 5-star hotel. Another gives you the option to shop online and have items delivered to your bedside in under an hour.
Singapore is ahead of its neighboring countries in the number of different treatments it offers. Singapore is also looking to the future and has positioned itself at the forefront of research into new drugs.
If you are a regular reader you will know the Dominican Republic is a fast growing country. It’s currently laying down vast amounts of new and modern, infrastructure. The health care industry is an area benefiting from this investment.
Dominican Republic currently specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Prices for this are around 80% cheaper than in the States. The Dominican Republic is a popular dental tourism resort and hair transplants. It’s a competitive market, but the Dominican Republic is well positioned to thrive. Certainly, doing your rehabilitation on a beautiful Caribbean island has its attractions.
25 daily flights to the U.S. make the Dominican Republic easily accessible, and the government is putting a lot of time and money into the industry. The Dominican Republic is going to be a big player before too long.
Panama is a well-established medical tourism destination. Hospitals here have an international reputation. The level of physicians and standard of hospitals are equal to the States. Panama has a number of hospitals you can choose between. Flights are easily available and relatively inexpensive. As Panama’s only big city, Panama City has nearly all of the top hospitals. This is very convenient for tourists.
Hospital Punta Pacifica is Panama’s best known medical tourism hospital. It accounts for nearly a quarter of all medical tourism. It specializes in cardiovascular diseases and orthopedics. Centro Medico Paitilla is building more private rooms. Hospital Santa Fe is applying for International Accreditation. Panama is making a big play to become a market leader for medical tourism in the coming years.
As part of a plan to get more tourists, Colombia’s government has been promoting medical tourism. Colombia’s health care system is probably the best in South America. Medellin is the most feted destination. Medellin has plenty of international recognition. This is drawing medical tourists from across the Americas. Away from Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena are building new hospitals. They want to help meet the increasing demand for medical care in Colombia.
Colombia specializes in cosmetic surgery and has some of the best surgeons. It also has some of the most competitive prices you can find anywhere. Colombia is also looking to offer more specialized cancer treatments. Hospitals are partnering with U.S. counterparts for research and development. This should ensure Colombia remains at the forefront of technology for the future.
Colombia is starting to promote hospitality treatments for medical tourists. The Colombian government sees this as an interesting way to boost numbers. Over the next few years, you will see more partnerships between hospitals and luxury spas and country retreats. Colombia is sure to remain one of the world’s best health care options.
Medical tourism in Mexico has come a long way from trips across the border for cheap prescription drugs. Nowadays people fly to destinations such as Cancun, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. Here they can get a range of treatments. These towns are becoming popular as English is widely spoken and flights are easy to find. New hospitals in Mexico are being built specifically with U.S. tourists in mind. It’s easy to find quotes online for most procedures.
While Mexico appeals to people looking for surgery and major procedures, the country gets a lot of visitors for more minor treatments. Its proximity to the United States and low costs make it an attractive destination.
It’s easy to make a personal connection with the doctors in Mexico. They speak English and aren’t under pressure to fit appointments into 15 minute segments. This means time is available to develop a rapport, and more importantly offer a thorough diagnosis.
Costa Rica is fast becoming the home of luxury medical treatment overseas. At an average of 50%-70% savings compared to the States it’s easy to see why. Costa Rica has modern state of the art surgery and hospitals. Where it really distinguishes itself is the recovery phase.
Specialist resorts are set against Costa Rica’s back drop of beaches, mountains and rainforest. You can find lots of websites who will take care of every aspect of your Costa Rica medical visit. From flights, to the operation and through to the rehabilitation center, you can book every aspect of your medical trip in one place.
Costa Rica is probably the best dental tourism destination in the world. You will find a range of services offered. You can expect transport from the airport to your hotel, and back again. With a number of providers, competition is fierce enough to keep prices low.
India sees around half a million foreign patients each year. Medical tourism is vital to India’s future and expected to be an $8 billion industry by 2020. India’s big advantage is offering the best value for money in the world. On average you can expect to pay 10% of what you would pay in the States. The standard of doctors and hospitals you will find are as good or better as you can find anywhere.
People travelling for medical reasons get a 30 day visa. A wide range of flights, make visiting India for treatment one easy and convenient. The major cities are home to medical tourism, including Chennai, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
India is able to offer a range of alternative therapies and medicines. The country has a rich history in this field. The old and new exist together in Indian medicine, and India is at the cutting edge of robotic surgery.
The country has over 300 robotic surgeons. These are surgeons who work with robots to perform some of the most delicate and complex surgeries. Prices for these procedures remain high but as the market expands expect this to become a big industry in future years. Take care booking this proceedure if your name is Sarah Connor.
We hope you enjoyed this article on the world’s best health care options. Let us know if there are any that we missed, in the comments below.