An overwhelming number of articles have been written about medical tourism and its definition. What is clear is that the new mobility of patients is more than just a passing phenomenon. However, it is still confusing to most patients how to decide what destination best suits their needs.
Medical Tourism (as the word implies) involves travel outside of one’s national boundaries, but with an objective other than adventure or leisure at an exotic location. The reasons for utilizing healthcare in a foreign country are various: cost savings or poor local healthcare and long waiting periods are some, but the goal is always similar; to secure high quality medical treatment at an affordable price. Although high quality and affordable pricing plays an important role in deciding to engage in medical tourism, they do not encompass the whole story.
The political and legal environment at the target destination must provide the patient with an assurance of security to counteract the inherent fear and uncertainty that accompanies medical travel. A highly specialized private hospital with a narrow spectrum of skilled procedures may offer the best quality for a specific treatment but, if difficulties should arise, it may not be able to assure an adequate intervention.
For this reason a network of acute hospitals, well-trained specialists and a comprehensive healthcare are in place in the event of complications helping alleviate many fears that may arise in the traveling patients’ experience.
A long tradition of medical research, medical breakthroughs and excellent clinical practice provides reassurance as to the standard of care a patient will encounter at their destination; not only with respect to their physicians, but regarding the nursing staff which will care for them as well.
The German federal state of Bavaria is clearly well positioned in the medical tourism market in this respect. It is an upscale destination offering world-class quality care at surprisingly affordable prices and shorter waiting periods compared to the U.S.
The German system of social welfare enables access to medical care for every citizen. Thus, healthcare is financed mainly by statutory health insurance that allows reasonable government regulated prices. Ten percent of the population has private insurance and only 0.3% is uninsured.
Bavaria is recognized worldwide as a top location for health, rehabilitation and tourism. The latest advancements – MRI procedures, minimally invasive surgery, and computer aided diagnostic investigation and therapy – are incorporated into medical treatment methods that guarantee a leading position in research and medical technology development. In addition, close cooperation with medical technical manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies ensures immediate benefits to patients from the latest innovations.
Four hundred licensed acute hospitals offer a range of top services in the latest standards for treatment and diagnostics, like cardiac surgery, orthopedics, oncology, neurosurgery etc.
An excellent structure of post-op rehabilitation is provided by a dense network of over 300 institutions in Bavaria alone; this feature is particular to the German healthcare system. The leading hospitals of Eastern Bavaria, the University teaching hospitals of Passau and Deggendorf, occupy a central position in the healthcare of the region. Up-to-date medical technologies, excellently trained medical specialists and nursing staff guarantee a high performance of healthcare and peace of mind for the patient.
Following the trend, the hospitals are organized in centers of highly specialized care, especially for cardiac surgery, oncology, neurosurgery and gynecology. These interdisciplinary centers are certified and monitored by national and international organizations, like DKG (the German Cancer Society) or ESGO (the European Society for Gynecological Oncology).
They also participate in clinical trials that focus particularly on cancer treatments (for further details www.clinicaltrials.gov, search term “Passau” or “Deggendorf”). Exceptional medical experts work together in multi-specialized teams to provide optimal diagnostics and therapy to each individual patient. There is special emphasis on a holistic approach that is in accordance with the highest standards of care.
Bavarian physicians have gained considerable knowledge in the treatment of coronary heart disease and arrhythmia. Their patients benefit directly from this progress. This is true not only of modern developments in heart surgery such as the use of stents, but is also true of more traditional and conservative surgical treatment options for arrhythmia.
Modern oncology treatment operates on an interdisciplinary basis offering an individual plan for every single patient. A network of operating surgeons, radiotherapists, internal medicine oncologists, radiologists and pathologists determines the individual treatment plans in what are known as “tumor conferences”. The strategies utilized by the Passau and Deggendorf hospitals follow the current guidelines of the German Society for Oncology.
The specialty of neuro-radiology is offered by only a few hospitals in Bavaria and is a distinguished expertise in Deggendorf Hospital. Patients from all around Eastern Bavaria who have suffered severe cranio-cerebral injuries are treated there in conjunction with the department for trauma surgery and special forms of cerebral hemorrhage.
However, despite the focus on certain procedures and treatments the hospitals also provide centralized acute healthcare for the regional population. The interdisciplinary organization of the centers enables immediate specialized intervention in the intensive care units and fully equipped operation rooms in the event of an emergency.
The region’s excellence is not found in the hospitals alone, it is also found in individuals that are well-known in their fields. Their renown has stretched beyond the national boundaries.
One such luminary is Dr. Bertagnoli, one of the world’s leading spine surgeons. Nothing gives a better testament to Dr. Bertagnoli’s expertise than the fact that he teaches his technique of spinal surgery to doctors from around the world. He has instructed more than 3,000 doctors from over 55 countries.
As of August 2009 he has completed over 4,000 artificial disc replacements; making him the most experienced ADR surgeon in the world. Dr. Bertagnoli is the only ADR surgeon who has had peer-reviewed analysis of the results of his work.
In light of this superior medical healthcare, the Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment and Public Health has promoted the federal state as an international medical cluster for research, integration of science and clinical practice. The international patient can find here not only first class treatment, but also sensitive care, comfort and safety.
Last, but not least, patients find fantastic cultural and natural surroundings. As an added value the pure air of untouched nature, the wonderful landscapes of the Alps and of the Bavarian Forest and the historic cities complete a pleasant medical travel experience for the patient.
The vacationing region of the Bavarian Forest in Eastern Bavaria, an insiders’ tip until a few years ago, attracts individual German and international tourists for its silent forest, richly decorated churches and jewel-like cities that glisten along the Danube River.
The pristine nature and proverbial Bavarian hospitality coupled with legendary diligence offer an optimal environment for medical travel to any of the hospitals in the region. The sizes of the hospitals allow for personal and individual attention from the staff as well as top-level medical care.
The function of a liaison between the patient and the medical care provider can be fulfilled by either an international office department owned by the hospital or by the outsourced service of a medical tourism facilitator. Both support the patient with the handling of enquiries, discussion of the medical process, payment details, appointments for travel and lodging and coordination at the hospital’s site. Whereas the staff of an international department has a medical background due to its integration into the hospital, the patient has to ensure for himself the experience and knowledge of the facilitator.
A team physician serving as a counselor can ensure the proper handling of medical information and an ethical approach towards the patients’ problems. Another important issue raised by using a facilitator is the availability of the facilitator at the travel destination in order to offer optimal dedicated services like transfers or post-treatment leisure activities if they are desired.
Nonetheless, in order to provide a holistic guidance for patients, a facilitator at the patients’ home base can provide useful information and services even before medical travel begins. A strategic cooperation between facilitators at the origin of departure and those at the travel destination and treating hospital may ensure a comprehensive additional service package.
Optimal coordination of medical travel with top-level medical providers, restorative destinations and efficient communication between patient and provider offers a unique one-stop experience for the medical tourist.
Anneliese Possberg is the Director of Medpro Bavaria GmbH. MedPro Bavaria facilitates premium medical treatmentsin Germany, in the Eastern Bavaria. They organize every step for the medical traveler and offers therefore comprehensive tailor-made services. The German-based agency organizes medical travels in cooperation with excellent university teaching hospitals in Passau and Deggendorf as well as with medical experts for different specializations, such as bariatric or orthopedics. A special emphasis is placed on the holistic approach in the field of the cardiac surgery, cancer treatment, gynecology, urology and neurosurgery. Anneliese may be reached at email@example.com or www.medprobavaria.com.