10 Interesting Facts About Surgeries Abroad

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Nowadays, when travelling has become fairly easy and affordable, more and more people go abroad for various reasons, including healthcare services. Since healthcare provides a wide range of services all over the world, global healthcare has become a field of growing interest. Here are ten interesting and useful facts about surgeries abroad.

1. The dangerous superbugs

Recently, a new term “superbugs” has become widespread in medical literature. The superbug is a synonym to the antimicrobially resistant bacteria. This is a medical phenomenon when bacteria assumes new features and becomes resistant to the prevalent drugs.

The superbug is one of the most distinguished public health concerns of the 21st century. This is because more and more commonplace infections become serious and difficult to treat. Moreover, some of the antimicrobial drugs are no longer effective.

Superbugs include pathogens for pneumonia, urinary-tract, wound and bloodstream infections. The vast majority of these infections are acquired in hospitals. One of the most important superbugs in hospitals is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This germ causes infections related to surgery or prosthesis. MRSA is a big concern in many European countries. For instance, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others. Consequently, if you live in a country with a high prevalence of MRSA, going abroad for a surgery or prosthesis procedure could be a good way to avoid untreatable infections caused by superbugs.

Fig.1. The prevalence of MRSA in Europe.

2. Reasonable prices

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: “Health is not everything, but without health everything else is nothing “. Probably, each of us would pay any price for one‘s health. But do we always pay reasonable prices at our home countries?

According to the data from the International Medical Travel Journal, you can get the same medical procedure for a lower price if you choose the right country. For example, a price for prostate removal in Bulgaria is 82% lower than in the UK. Furthermore, you can save up to 80% of the price for dental treatment by choosing it in Lithuania, Latvia or India. Also, cosmetic surgery prices are more affordable in such countries as Brazil, Hungary, Lithuania and Thailand.

Therefore, you do not have to pay the highest price in order to take care of your health properly. Today you can find great overseas alternatives to the healthcare offered in your country.

3. Surgeries abroad and financial support

If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA) country (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK) or Switzerland, you are entitled to treatment in another EEA member state. This right is regulated by the case law from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). According to the ECJ, patients are able to get any type of healthcare services in another EEA country. Moreover, patients are entitled to their costs reimbursements.

In the UK the system of reimbursements for medical travel is regulated by the National Health Service (Reimbursement of the Cost of EEA Treatment) Regulations 2010. According to this document, the UK residents are entitled to reimbursement which is equal to a price of a similar procedure in the UK. Costs exceeding this price have to be covered personally. Additionally, the Secretary of State may limit reimbursements if the medical procedure is available at the same time in the UK.

All in all, you have the right to get a reimbursement of treatment abroad if there is no possibility to get the same treatment in your country within a medically acceptable period.

4. Making a mountain out of a molehill

Medicine is a field where mistakes can cost dearly, especially when talking about surgery. However, despite any surgeon‘s best efforts, there is always a probability of particular complications. Unfortunately, the media tends to distort the facts by putting the blame on the surgeons, medical staff or the healthcare system. Furthermore, occasions when complications develop after surgeries abroad are always exaggerated by the media. Facts are presented as if surgery abroad would be more risky and life-threatening than in local clinics.

On the other hand, travelling abroad for surgery could lead to a higher rate of complications if you do not search for qualified doctors and clinics. In many countries such as Belgium, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, medical students study for 12 years to become surgeons. A long studying period is a great indicator for high qualification. Furthermore, you can always find licences and certificates proving the qualification of specialists. Therefore, a person should be aware that surgical complications can occur regardless of the medical staff’s efforts and the fact that surgery is performed abroad does not increase the risk of the complications.

5. Reasons to choose surgery abroad

Including the above-mentioned price differences, medical care services abroad provide you with a wide range of financial, health and even social benefits:

  • you can get the treatment quicker and avoid long waiting lines;
  • you can get higher quality services and facility overseas;
  • if you wish confidentiality, going abroad for medical procedures will definitely ensure this;
  • global healthcare enables you to get medical services which are restricted by juridical or confessional circumstances in your native country;
  • you are able to combine healthcare and sightseeing if this is medically acceptable.

6. Leading surgeries abroad

Plenty of health related procedures are available abroad. However, some procedures are more preferable than others. Firstly, the majority of people travel abroad for cosmetic surgery including face and neck lifts, cheek implants, liposuction, tummy tuck and many others. Moreover, dental care is also in great demand. Usually people go abroad for dental implants but cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening are also in demand. Orthopaedic procedures are also popular. This includes knee and hip replacement surgeries, hip resurfacing procedures.

Others choose foreign countries for weight loss surgery. Also, people go abroad for cardiovascular surgery procedures like heart bypass and heart valve surgeries. In addition, people who have infertility disorders tend to choose overseas fertility clinics more and more often.

7. Modern methods: be aware

Surgery abroad could provide you with an opportunity to receive a particular treatment that is banned in your local country. However, you should be aware of modern technologies, because the healing effect of some of them is a really great concern. For instance, stem cell therapy. It is restricted or even forbidden in many countries. However, there are clinics in countries, where stem cell research and use in treatment is legal (for example, India, Switzerland and Ukraine) offering treatment for a wide range of diseases. They claim that this method is advanced and patented. On the other hand, the International Society for Stem Cell Research states that stem cell use in treatment is largely new and there is a lot that the researchers and doctors still need to learn. According to this organisation, the range of diseases that could be cured by using stem cell therapy is extremely small and includes blood and immune system disorders and acquired loss of bone marrow. So, you should search for reliable information or talk to competent doctors before going ahead with the modern and barely proven methods of treatment in a foreign country.

8. Development of medical tourism industry

If you would insert a phrase “medical tourism” in a Google Internet search, it would return in about 138,000,000 results while in 2007 it returned only 1,100,000. The industry of medical tourism is developing amazingly fast. Plenty of associations, societies, facilitator companies and journals of medical tourism were established around the globe over the past decade.

Data on the medical tourism market is not very verifiable due to an uncertain definition of medical travel and limitations of a database at the country level. Keeping that in mind, we will look through some facts and statistics.

In 2007, the global medical tourism industry generated annual revenues up to $60 billion with an expectance of 20% annual growth. By the year 2012 a significant growth stood at $100 billion. The number of people travelling abroad for medical care is also increasing explosively. Let‘s take the USA, for instance. In 2007 about 750,000 Americans went abroad for medical treatments. Today about 1.6 million Americans choose foreign countries for medical care.

Fig.2. Increasing tendency of US residents going abroad for medical care. Source: Medical tourism: update and implications.

9. Searching for the doctor

Global healthcare provides a wide range of medical specialists. Usually, all necessary information about the surgeons’ qualification is accessible on the internet. However, choosing a surgeon abroad is not so easy because each country has different medical standards and qualifications. Moreover, you should keep in mind that in some countries the rules and the control of medical services are not very strict. First, it is useful to find out if the surgeon obtained the medical training which is required in your chosen country. Surgeons should present licences and certificates proving their qualification. The documents should be verified by their national accreditation body.

Secondly, a great indicator of quality and reliability is membership in international organisations such as the International Confederation for Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (IPRAS), the International Society for Vascular Surgery (ISVS), the Joint Commission International (JCI) and others.

10. The risks of surgery abroad

Healthcare abroad can bring great advantages to you, but there are some circumstances that can ruin your plans if not prepared properly. First, foreign language may be a problem. You should know the foreign language properly in order to understand every detail related to your medical procedure abroad. On the other hand, you should make sure that the medical staff of the foreign clinic will be able to communicate with you in an understandable language.

Furthermore, you can face disappointment due to a lack of research into the clinics or surgeons. Try to make sure that the surgeon who will perform the surgery is registered and fully accredited. You should find out as much as you can about the foreign clinic you are going to. Moreover, you should consider the recovery period. Try to plan your stay in a foreign country keeping in mind the importance of the aftercare. Depending on the surgical procedure, the aftercare may include either specialized post-operative medical care or just a phone call from your doctor. All in all, you should get satisfactory answers to all your questions before the go-ahead.