He said it would be a mistake to ignore overseas medical care. “I think that organized medicine needs to get their arms around this,” he said. “This train’s going down the track whether doctors want to participate or not. It’s happening all around the world.”
Explore this issue:January 2011
It’s easy to see why medical travel is becoming more popular, said David Vequist, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Some facilities abroad resemble five-star resorts, he said.
“You could go and potentially see an ENT in a location that looks very much like a resort, has a pool, is down by the beach, things of that nature,” he said. “After you’re done with the procedure and you’re going to rest, they’d have a masseuse that would be rubbing your shoulders while you’re lying by the pool in your bathing suit and the cabana boy is bringing you margaritas. … That’s what hospitals internationally are focusing on. Private room, private suite. And all of this for costs that are arguably 50 percent less than what you would pay in the United States.”
Some doctors are more than willing to participate, he said, referring to “cruise trips” or “vacation trips” in which a U.S. doctor goes with a patient abroad or meets a patient abroad, performs the procedure overseas, and then provides follow-up care back in the U.S.
Some doctors, particularly those in border states, are opening offices both in the U.S. and just across the border, according to Dr. Vequist.
“You actually may be unprofitable here in the United States, but in the cash-pay environment in Mexico, even receiving a lower payment, you actually may be profitable there,” he said.
Rupak of PlanetHospital said that there is an otolaryngologist in his network who provides that kind of care. “We call that program the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ program,” he said.
More and more doctors are willing to provide follow-up care to patients who have traveled abroad, he said. “These are cash-paying patients, and what’s happening to a lot of ENT practices is that they’re having to do more cases and make less money on each case,” he said. “So everybody is looking for new patients.”