What are the risks of going abroad for treatment?
Going abroad for medical treatment can be a straightforward, trouble free experience that combines great savings with an exciting visit to a foreign country. However, there are a number of risks that you need to consider before you make your decision.
Having treatment abroad is not as easy as booking into your local Country’s Hospital or your private hospital, and you need to decide whether the extra effort and risks involved are worth the savings you can make. Here are a few of the potential risks that you need to think about.
Pre- and post-op travel
There is a big difference between being driven to and from your local hospital by a friend and travelling internationally for treatment. Having treatment abroad could mean that you have to travel a long way to your destination in some discomfort. For example, if you are having a hernia operation, have an impacted wisdom tooth or are planning a knee replacement. Similarly, you will have to travel home soon after your surgery, so you could end up flying in cramped economy class with a recent surgical wound. Either of these trips could put your health at risk.
Being in a foreign country can sometimes be disconcerting, with different ways and customs, different food and drinks, strange money and worst of all a completely different language that you may not understand. If you are worried about your procedure, then these elements will certainly not help, and this stress can have a real affect on the outcome of your treatment.
What’s more, if you do not fully understand your surgeon, then you may not know what to expect after your treatment. You may worry unnecessarily about any resulting pain, or worse, assume that a complication is ‘normal’ for your procedure and let it go untreated.
Many hospitals abroad are of an excellent standard, and may have infection rates lower than your home Countrt’s hospitals. That said, you will get what you pay for, and so a clinic in a developing country may not be of the same standard that you would expect to find in your home Country.
You can reduce the risks by choosing your clinic carefully and being prepared to pay a little more than the lowest available price. Ask the clinic for data on their infection rates and unexpected returns to theatre.
Staying a few extra days in your local hospital if things take longer than expected is usually no more than a minor inconvenience. However staying on for longer abroad can lead to a number of complications, including missed flights, extra accommodation costs and even visa problems.
As with all private treatment, there is also the issue of who pays for any additional expenses that you incur. The clinic may cover your extra costs if something goes wrong, but you may still have to pay extra for your companion to stay for longer and rebook their flight. You need to check the small print carefully to see exactly who pays for what. You should consider taking out medical travel insurance for medical complications for surgery abroad.
Problems when you get home
Perhaps the biggest drawback of medical treatment overseas is the issue of post-op problems. If you have travelled to the Czech Republic to save money on your facelift, you may be reluctant to return for further treatment if something goes wrong. It is important to use a reputable hospital, clinic or medical tourism organisation that can provides a guarantee or will cover aftercare here in your home country, especially if you are seeking a complex procedure that has a high risk of complications.
If things go badly wrong, you could end up with a very complex legal battle on your hands. Clinics abroad are governed by the law of that country, and so any legal action you need to take could be very expensive and difficult to pursue. What’s more, foreign laws may not offer you the same level of protection that you would expect in your home country, so even if you do pursue such action, you may not get the compensation you expect or deserve.