Many U.S. doctors and dentists were appalled at the idea of their patients turning to foreign hospitals for care that they considered dangerously cheap. But where many U.S. medical professionals saw great peril, countries like Cuba saw opportunities. Beginning in the late 1980's, the island country started programs to lure foreigners from India, Latin America and Europe for eye surgeries, heart procedures and cosmetic procedures. The Cuban government said it welcomed 2,000 medical tourists last year.
After Thailand's currency collapsed in 1997, the government directed its tourism officials to market the country as a hot destination for plastic surgery, hoping to boost revenues. Thailand quickly became the go-to country for comparatively inexpensive sex-change operations, where patients faced fees as low as $5,000, as well as looser requirements for pre-surgery psychological counseling. Thailand is now a destination spot for all types of plastic surgery as well as a host of routine medical procedures. Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok is probably Thailand's best-known mecca for medical tourists, boasting patients from "over 190 countries" and an "International Patient Center" with interpreters and an airline ticket counter.
In recent years, companies all over the U.S. have sprung up to guide Americans through the insurance and logistical hurdles of surgery abroad, including many in U.S. border states affiliated with medical facilities in Mexico. The physician-managed MedToGo in Tempe, Arizona, founded in 2000, says its clients save "up to 75% on medical care" by getting it in Mexico. The Christua Muguerza hospital system — located in Mexico, but run by U.S.-based Christian hospital group since 2001 — includes a scrolling text box on its web site informing visitors how "very close to you" its Mexican facilities are. ("from Houston 1 hr 37 mins!" "from Chicago 3hrs 15 mins!") Meanwhile, New Zealand is trumpeting its expertise in hip and knee replacements and South Korea is enticing medical travelers with high-end non-medical amenities like golf.
For those who wrinkle their noses at the thought of going under the knife in a foreign, let alone still-developing, country, the American Medical Association introduced a set of guidelines in June for medical tourism. The AMA advocates that insurance companies, employers and others involved in the medical tourism field provide proper follow-up care, tell patients of their rights and legal recourse, use only accredited facilities, and inform patients of "the potential risks of combining surgical procedures with long flights and vacation activities," among other recommendations. Joint Commission International, a non-profit that certifies the safety and record of hospitals, has accredited some 200 foreign medical facilities, many in Spain, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Re-posted by the Dental Tourism News Co.
Phoenix Editor - For whatever you need or wherever you go - be sure you choose the services of a board certified dentist or doctor. For instance: In the USA - there are few standards as to what constitutes a cosmetic dentist or plastic surgeon. The Florida attorney general did a review of the credentials of 146 plastic surgeons and discovered a former eye doctor, a foot doctor and chiropractor - none of whom every attended a specialist's school for surgical procedures. Cosmetic dentistry and plastic surgery are unregulated specialties in many countries including the US as they are not recognized as true specialties and are not taught as such in medical schools. One exception is Mexico where colleges offer specialist degrees in cosmetic dentistry.
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