Medical Tourism

You might have heard of Medical Tourism by now. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but basically it refers to someone who is willing (and often does) travel to obtain medical care.

Travel the world! See the sights! Get your appendix cut out! — Now there is a thought. It’s a bone jarring statement, but it is happening more and more. Usually the reasoning behind Medical Tourism is cost: The cost of a medical procedure in some locales is so low that it actually justifies the travel expenses. It’s becoming a big business; India is expecting Medical Tourism to grow and Taiwan is beginning to prepare for it as well.

The reverse side of Medical Tourism is the number coming to the United States. The cost may be cheaper overseas, but we’ve got the best medical care in the world. When someone wants top-notch care, they come here.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Some of the links I have added lead to sites promoting Medical Tourism. I know nothing about these sites, the quality of care offered, or the complications that could ensue. I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not your doctor. It’s up to you to discuss any medical option with a qualified medical professional.]

As someone with a Congenital heart Defect (or their parent), you are already a medical tourist… once again, we’re leading the pack, the rest of the world is trying to catch up with us. The simple truth of the matter is that if you have a Funky Heart, your local community hospital is not going to be able to provide the care you need. My local hospital has about 150 beds and is pretty modern, but the original wing – which has only an enclosed toilet and sink in the patient’s rooms – is still being used. Obviously, that wing is only for low risk patients who aren’t having any complications, but it was quite surprising to see when I visited a friend that had a broken leg. Two rules apply here: 1) Not every hospital offers Congenital Heart Defect/Adult Congenital Heart Defect care; and 2) Of the ones that do, not all of them are good at it. So bite the bullet, gas up the car, and pack a bag. You’ll almost certainly have to hit the road.

If you happen to be a native of a heavily populated area with a large medical facility, you’re probably in luck. Big city facilities obviously see a lot of patients, and if you are lucky they have a well trained, experienced Cardiac Care program. It’s no fluke that most of the better heart programs in the country are located in large urban areas.

There are a few exceptions, the biggest one being Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The city of Rochester has less than 100,000 people, but since it is home to Mayo Clinic (considered by many to be the best hospital in the world) nearly everything revolves around it. Rochester has an International Airport (unusual for a city of its size) and the city bus system caters mainly to Mayo Clinic patients.When the Clinic closes early (Christmas and New Year’s), the bus system shuts down early.

No one said having a Funky Heart was easy… or cheap. But we can overcome this challenge, too!

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4 Responses to “Medical Tourism”

  1. Pages tagged "surprising" Says:

    […] bookmarks tagged surprising Medical Tourism saved by 6 others     gr33ndaychick bookmarked on 09/18/08 | […]

  2. Wendy Says:

    It’s very true – we are lucky and only live 70 kms from Sick Kids hospital in Toronto. AND we have an excellent pediatric cardiology department at McMaster Children’s in Hamilton. So surgery and anything major/life threatening etc is all done at Sick Kids – they have the brand new as of 2007 Labatt Heart Centre which is amazing. For regular check-ups etc…and sedated echos we go to the local hospital (McMaster). They are fabulous and consult Sick Kids with any and all concerns. Saves us the drive and we get the opinions of some of the best cardiologists.

    Ever since reading your blog however, I’ve wondered where Christopher is going to get care as an adult. He’s got many years to go before he reaches that, but I don’t even know where we’d begin…

  3. Steve Says:

    You’d begin by asking these great cardiologists that you already have access to. They would be glad to give you some names… and might even tell you who/where to avoid!

    I can’t speak for Canada, but ACHD care in the US is growing in numbers and getting better! CHD’s aren’t going away, so by the time your son is an adult, he (hopefully) will have very few problems finding a good program.

    Now how far away that program will be… that’s another story.

  4. Steve Says:

    Received a comment from someone promoting Malaysia as a Medical Tourism destination, with “quality facilities” and “English speaking staff.” His link goes to his organization – a medical tourism agency.

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