It is time that Canadians are educated on the newly coined term “Medical Tourism” as another available option for medical procedures and treatment. The concept of “tourism” may be misleading for many times the typically advised tourist activities would be limited to local site seeing, window shopping, cultural performances and relaxing but healing treatments performed at or close to the resort. High quality, low cost facilities providing every kind of treatment and surgery available are available around the world. Why would Canadians be interested?
It is well-known that Canadian healthcare is recognized as universal and ranked among the best in the world. However, it is also well-known that all procedures are not necessarily funded by provincial health insurance and ones that are funded may leave patients on waiting lists for months to even years. The individual provincial healthcare systems and the Canadian government are very aware of its rationed healthcare, a heated topic of debate since the massive healthcare budget cuts in the early 1990’s.
Technology and pharmaceutical costs continue to increase; however, the funds available are not proportionally increasing creating the escalating funding shortfalls to the healthcare system. Ceiling profit margins for doctors with subsequent doctor shortages, massive hospital personnel layoffs and limited resources for medical equipment are not in balance with the overflowing demand. As the population increases, technological advancements raise life expectancy rates, and “baby boomers” advance in age, our bursting hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices can only expect the pressure to increase. It is because of this understanding that provinces now have a clause that their provincial health insurance will pay for an internationally supplied treatment or procedure if it complies with province regulations. This request, initiated by your physician, however, has many guidelines and restrictions that limit the number of approved cases for government funding.
Options for an individual in need of a medical procedure, wait-listed, without funding from the provincial government:
- Appeal and complain to local doctor, remembering, the physician is bound by restrictions often beyond their control.
- Patiently wait for the scheduled procedure for it is a “Canadian right” to have the procedure provided without extra cost. This way of thinking is understandable but sometimes unreasonable for there is often a cost to pay. Waiting for a surgery may not cost the individual directly however; the price paid over the long run with daily pain may have a greater affect on the patients’ emotional, psychological, definitely physical and possibly economical security.
- Alternatively, Canadians can chose to take responsibility for their own healthcare with the support of their medical doctor through a certified medical facilitator to direct them to accredited facilities and reputable physicians to perform the necessary procedure in a timely and efficient manner.
As for the opinion that healthcare should be publicly funded, universal and equal for all Canadians, most Canadians agree. We have quality healthcare, life threatening conditions are treated immediately, anyone with provincial health insurance can be attended to in any Canadian hospital, all doctor’s appointments are paid for, with no billing and no reclaims. However, for those who have the means to travel and obtain healthcare, why not? Medical tourism has been practiced for hundreds of years.
Medical Tourism should not be viewed as a “threat” to our Healthcare Service but as a right of any Canadian to be educated and equipped, to undergo a medical procedure, elective or not, anywhere they choose. In turn, one more person removed from the lengthy waiting lists across Canada means better service for those still waiting. Recently, a Canadian politician was publicly questioned for obtaining medical treatment out of Canada, which stirred up much debate about the Canadian Healthcare system and reasons why an individual would leave the country for medical reasons. In the end, it was a private choice made by a private citizen who felt that it was the best possible option for his own health.
Not all Canadians who would benefit from Medical Tourism are looking for treatment elsewhere. Some individuals have exhausted all conventional options for treatment in Canada and are without hope for recovery are willing to embrace treatment options not provided in Canada. Others want to explore other countries and cultures, float in the Dead Sea or experience acupuncture in China, the country of its origin.
There are a vast number of alternative healthcare options available from homeopathy and herbal treatments to acupuncture and reflexology. Some like to combine a “his and her” holiday medical tourism package; enjoy long walks on the beach, a hair transplant for him, a face lift for her, healing and relaxing with exotic drinks in the shade of a big palm tree finished off with a massage each evening on the beach under a sunset. Out of the country, weddings are ever increasing in popularity and with sufficient preplanning, could incorporate a variety of procedures at a fraction of the cost without the extra expense of travel.
Dental work; crowns, bridges, veneers, cosmetic surgeries; face-lifts, hair transplants, bariatrics, fertility clinics to name a few procedures not necessarily covered by the provincial health insurance plan are the responsibility of the individual. Many individuals have “benefit plans” provided by their employer but an increasing number of Canadians are self-employed business owners who are acutely aware that all dental and vision costs for example, are privately incurred.
For those willing to pay, some will prefer to remain in Canada and are willing to pay the price. Some clients, however, given the choice may opt to pay for the same quality of work that could include a two-week vacation in a relaxing resort.
The final decision really is up to the individual requiring medical treatment. Medical Tourism as a prerogative will affect the pricing for dental, optical and cosmetic clinics locally. Global consumerism will bring competition; competition fosters change and will ultimately improve overall healthcare quality and cost for all Canadians.
The obvious downfall to obtaining treatment of any kind out of country is safety. How do you know which places are safe? Which doctors are professional? Is the country that has the procedure that I am interested in safe? I am traveling to the Caribbean anyway; do they provide qualified dental work there? Is it safe? Are the doctors qualified? Are the facilities accredited? What insurance companies cover the medical tourist? What after care options are available?
The value of using a company, certified as a Medical Tourism Facilitator with medical professionals on staff, with years of international experience include:
- Decreasing stress and limiting risks by providing research and planning services covering details about countries, accredited facilities, recommended doctors, and after care facilities
- Coordinate all transportation by air and ground; to and from the chosen country and treatment facility.
- Monitor of progress and offer support while abroad.
- Establish open communication between the Canadian doctor, the patient and the international doctor/facility and the facilitator
- Assist with Visa services and cultural tips
- Will provide a medical escort if necessary
- Immunization and vaccination information
- Public health safety updates and travel warning
- Provision of documents in digital form; it is in your advantage to work with a facilitator that can offer an EPR (Electronic Patient Records) service. With patient confidentiality in mind, a patient should not have to worry that their files are safe and placed into the proper hands.
- Often times a medical facilitator will reduce the individual’s overall cost by using established international connections, negotiated discounts with tour operators, hotels, hospitals transportation companies and the ability to arrange travel details with back up options for emergencies.
Many countries have seen the value of Medical Tourism for their economy and have invested billions of dollars over the last ten years to establish a trusted reputation by offering international patients quality healthcare at an affordable cost. Many hospitals are similar to five-star hotels with multiple nurses per patient and increased hospital days allotted for recovery. Their intention is to give the best service and care often going beyond expectations.
Client satisfaction leads to a growth of the facility and local tourism. Accredited medical tourism facilities meet a higher standard of care and service, thus increasing marketing value. Many doctors practicing today in these international hospitals and clinics have trained and practiced in the US and Canada however have opted to return to their home country. Others, while remaining on staff in North American hospitals, provide their medical expertise to Medical Tourism facilities on a part-time basis.
Any medical procedure, regardless of where it is performed, is accompanied with risks. Many Canadians will travel for medical procedures and treatments without sufficient research and planning into their treatment facility and doctor increasing the risk of inadequate safety and care that directly affects the success of their procedure. To improve procedure outcomes, individuals must be properly educated on the risks, advantages of international travel and accredited healthcare facilities thus taking responsibility for their own health.
Persons need to consider Medical Tourism for access to some of the best international hospitals and doctors and for achieving the best possible prices using a certified Medical Tourism Facilitator. The mission of a reputable Medical Tourism Facilitator is to utilize experience and knowledge of travel and medical systems to ensure global best practice.
About the Author
Angels of Flight Canada Inc. is a 100% Canadian owned and operated by health care professionals that provide medical evacuation and intra-facility transportation of ill and injured persons both in Canada and around the world.
With over twenty years experience, in 88 countries, Angels uses its ISO 9001- 2008 accreditation of international quality assurance and a network of accredited companies, to guarantee “best practice standards” at competitive costs.
With limited prior notification, Angels of Flight Canada Inc. has the ability to provide air ambulance aircraft or coordinate commercial aircraft, accompanied with physicians and / or extensively trained registered nurses and advanced care paramedics to any location worldwide.
Angels of Flight Canada has recently joined the Medical Tourism industry to provide the medical logistics to facilitate safe and successful experiences for medical tourists. Over the years, our company has transported many clients for international medical treatment purposes so are looking forward to expand this portion of our company.