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Medical tourism guide: Step 1

Decide if treatment abroad is right for you

Ten years ago, the only people who travelled overseas for medical treatment were the super-rich, flying around the globe to be treated by the world’s best medical professionals.


Now, the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of medical professionals in a foreign country has opened up to wider society. It’s partly because competitive pricing among airlines – and the expansion of flights and destinations – has brought overseas travel within reach of those on a range of budgets. But rising medical costs locally, along with decreased satisfaction with standards of care and waiting time for treatment, has prompted many consumers to look beyond their home market for their medical needs. What many are discovering is that world class treatment at an affordable price can be just a plane-ride away.  And, rather than being an inconvenience, having treatment away from your home environment is increasingly seen as a bonus. It not only offers discretion to those who would prefer their treatment to remain private, but it can also provide the ideal environment for full recuperation, away from the temptation to carry on with every day tasks.

It’s no longer considered unusual to travel for dental treatment, cosmetic surgery, hip and knee replacements, MRI scans, heart surgery, laser vision correction and fertility treatment.  But it goes without saying that going overseas for treatment is a bigger undertaking than seeing your local physician, and it’s not right for everyone.  It’s best suited to those who are comfortable with airline travel and with day-to-day living in a country where many people may not speak their first language. It’s ideal for those who take a proactive approach to health and who are willing – and have the time - to undertake the necessary research to identify the right destination, clinic or hospital, and medical professional to carry out their treatment. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide if it’s right for you.

  • 1 Am I well enough to travel? If you’re going for dental work, cosmetic surgery or minor medical treatment, this should not be an issue. But more and more patients are travelling for heart and other major surgery or treatment.  You should also consider whether you will be well enough to travel after your treatment.  If you have health concerns, or are undergoing major treatment, opting for a shorter flight can be more advisable than going for a long-haul destination. Having treatment closer to home is also a better option for those whose treatment involves several trips or a follow-up journey. Good clinics will help you assess your fitness for travel, but if you have any doubts, consult a physician in your own country.

  • 2 Is there anyone who can travel with me? Travelling alone for treatment suits many patients as it cuts down on costs. But if your treatment requires a longer stay, and you will be incapacitated for a period of time afterwards, it’s more advisable to travel with a companion.

  • 3 How will I finance it? Very few health insurance policies cover elective treatment overseas so you will be financing the treatment yourself. Some, but not all, treatment providers offer payment plans. But will you have the requisite funds if you need to pay for the treatment in one lump sum?

  • 4 Do I have time to do some research?  Unless you happen to know someone who has had the same treatment that you require and can personally recommend a clinic or hospital, it will be up to you to find the right destination for your treatment.  At present there are no independent bodies advising on the quality of treatment offered by specific treatment providers in various countries. So you should be prepared to do some research yourself, by checking the track record of the clinic or hospital and the professional qualifications of the medical professionals involved. You’ll find more information on how to do this in Steps 4 and 5 of this guide.

  • 5 Am I prepared to be flexible? Many of those who travel overseas for treatment are busy professionals. But it’s essential that your schedule allows for some flexibility in case you need to stay longer or return for more treatment.


10 Steps to Successful Treatment Overseas