Recently I gave a presentation at the National Dental Benefits Conference hosted by the American Dental Association in Chicago. The topic of my presentation of course was Dental Tourism. Amongst the many questions and concerns raised by the delegates was this issue of continuity of care. Many of the American and also Foreign Dentists treating patients in the US have received patients in their offices who have traveled overseas for their care whether it is for implants root canals or cosmetic dentistry.
The majority of the Dentists feel that unlike most physicians Dentistry suffers from different types of cost issues than in general healthcare. For example of the 120 million people in the US who do not have dental insurance approximately 40% of those are the American poor. Additionally dental plans generally cover only up to $1000 per person per year or at the most $1500 per person per year.
Considering that an implant may cost as much as $2000 per implant and is only covered if necessary it is no wonder why people are traveling overseas for dental care. It was reported that dental insurance plans are only covering a very small percentage of dental care sought overseas. For instance according to Doyle Williams Chief Dental Officer of Great Dental Plans of the approximately one billion dollars for 13 million procedures spent on dental insurance benefits in an 18 month period overseas dollars amounted to only 3/100ths of 1% of the company's expenditures.
Dental Insurance Companies may realize that by offering Dental Tourism as an option with Dental Insurance Plans that they can potentially turn a $1500 per person annual maximum into a $10000 annual maximum allowing patients to get a significantly higher benefit overseas than in the US. Having said that some dental insurance companies may choose not to include dental tourism in their health plans at all.
A very important issue the industry needs to address is the issue of continuity of care with respect to dental patients traveling overseas for dental care. Some dentists allege that in the US it can take up to ten years to establish a strong personal relationship with a patient. If it indeed takes up to ten years for dentists to establish personal relationships with their patients and this level of trust is paramount to positive outcomes how can overseas providers of dental care improve and create long lasting relationships with their patients?
Or do overseas providers provide more personal care than US dentists? This does not appear to be a daunting task if providers of dental care follow the same protocols as providers of healthcare. Establishing personal relationships with your patients providing personal services and individualized care providing appropriate follow up care providing high quality dental care with quality materials and following up with the patient after the patient returns home would seem to set the stage for nurturing strong relationships with these patients in the future.
What about opening lines of communication with the primary care dentists? If there are problems then this open communication will serve the patient who returns home and cannot afford to have corrective work done in the US. Perhaps they will consider returning to your office for regular checkups while setting off on a tropical holiday. It will be important to continue this dialogue with the ADA to assure that dental tourism becomes part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
This month's issue focuses on South Korea the rising dragon of medical tourism. Recently the MTA opened an office in Seoul to better address the needs of the Asian MTA members. While visiting the Korean Council of the Promotion of Overseas Medicine the government initiative to promote medical tourism was discussed. The South Korean Government has named medical tourism as one of their top priorities for the year.
Through the combined efforts of CKMP KHIDI and KTO South Korean will be bringing their high quality of care to the limelight. CKMP has been hosting &ldquoFam Tours&rdquo bringing select groups from the insurance industry and facilitators for site tours and meetings with key government officials. The newly opened Los Angeles office of the Korean Tourism Office (KTO) organized a patient wellness trip to South Korean where they brought patients from the US to South Korean for wellness exams.
The program was one of many efforts by CKMP to raise awareness to medical tourism to South Korea including their platinum sponsorship at the upcoming World Medical Tourism Global Health Congress to be held in San Francisco California September 9-12 2008. As a major sponsor of the congress CKMP will attend committees and seminars in the capacity of an honored guest and enjoy the privilege of hosting the gala dinner and addressing a panel discussion on medical tourism in South Korea throughout the period of the event.
With its participation in this convention the CKMP expects that the organization will be able to lay the groundwork in attracting overseas patients by informing medical tourism officials about Korean medical services and institutions and by building networks. With this type of government support South Korea stands to become a leader in medical tourism quite effectively. I hope you enjoy this month's edition.