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5 Step Guide to Medical Tourism

Updated on May 29, 2010

My other Hub page described Truths and Myths About Medical Tourism. Armed with that knowledge, you may have decided to go ahead and become a medical tourist. That is, you are going to seek health care by travelling to a foreign country.

Whether it’s dental work or major surgery, you want to proceed logically. Five reasonable steps to take for health tourism include learning about your procedure, investigating the overseas facility and staff, determining your overall costs, deciding if you want to use a medical travel broker, and making the final preparations.

By following these steps you’ll be setting yourself up for the best outcome possible. After all, it’s your health we’re talking about here. So take the time and get it right!

Step 1: Determine what’s involved in your procedure

The range of dental and medical procedures offered overseas is astounding.

In the dental area, crowns, bridges, filings, and implants are all available.

Surgical procedures range from less invasive procedures such as a colonoscopy, gallbladder removal, and hernia repair to much more complex procedures such as heart bypass surgery and liver transplants.

There are also many plastic surgery options including facelifts, tummy tucks, and nose jobs (rhinoplasty)

So, chances are, if you want overseas medical care, it will be available. But you’ve got to be an informed consumer and know what’s included in your procedure. For example, how complex is the procedure? Can it be done by one doctor or dentist, or will a surgical team be required? How long will the procedure take? What are typical risks involved? How long does recovery usually take?

If you are knowledgeable about your procedure, you will know the right questions to ask when investigating your overseas healthcare options. It can help you determine if the medical facility truly understands and is experienced in performing your procedure.

Talk to your doctor and visit reputable online medcial sites.

Step 2: Investigate the qualifications of the overseas medical facility and medical staff

Next, you want to be sure you’re going to a reputable medical facility with a quality staff. Begin by finding out where in the world your procedure is performed.

I suggest a Google Advanced search with the name of your procedure in the “this exact wording or phrase:” box and “medical tourism” in the “all these words:” box. You will get quite a few sites that list medical facilities around the world that perform your specific procedure.

Visit their sites and read the description of their facilities and staff. Keep the following questions in mind:

  • Do they provide details about how they conduct the procedure?
  • Do they describe how they will treat you both before and after the procedure?
  • Do they have state-of-the-art equipment?
  • Are there biographies of staff members? If so, where were they trained and how experienced are they?
  • Are the facilities clean and well-kept?

Next, you must consider the accreditation of the facility. The Joint Commission International (JCI) reviews hospitals and clinics worldwide based on a set of safety standards. You can learn if your potential medical facility is accredited. Keep in mind that some hospitals only have a certification from the county in which they operate. These are well respected in areas such as the European Union.

Some foreign doctors are also board-certified in their chosen specialties. The website American Board of Medical Specialties can provide you more detailed information about board certification.

Step 3: Calculate the total cost

Many sites will give you a cost for the specific procedure. But this is not going to be the only cost. Consider these additional costs:

Travel costs: airfare, transfers, passport, visas, taxis to and from the medical facility to the airport
Living expenses: If someone is coming with you, the cost of their accommodations, food, and travel
Additional medical costs: Extended hospital stay, medications, medical supplies (e.g. wheelchair)
Miscellaneous: Calls back home, tips, sightseeing

Add up all these costs when determining what traveling for treatment will cost you.


Step 4: Decide if you want to do it yourself or make arrangements through a medical travel broker/health travel agency

After a thorough investigation, possibly including emails and a direct phone conversation, you may decide to make all your own arrangements for being a medical tourist. The advantage is that you are then in full control. The disadvantage is that making all those arrangements can add a layer of stress to any concerns you already have about the medical procedure.

As an alternative, there are companies that act as full-service brokers for your medical travel. Services typically include answering all your questions, connecting you to a qualified medical facility, arranging for all the travel, and providing other requested services. They then charge a total price for the package.

The advantages include:

Convenience: You will have one point of contact that can take care of all arrangements so you don’t have to think about it.

Experience: If the company has been in business a while and has first-hand knowledge of the places they’re recommending, you can feel confident that they are going to take good care of you.

NOTE: A reputable medical tourism travel agent will provide references, a valid contract, and offer a set payment plan.

The disadvantages include:

Cost: As with any typical travel agency, you will most likely pay an additional fee for the services provided. In some cases, you may have to pay as much as 50% up front. So be sure you have a valid contract that does not include any “hidden” fees.

Potential limited choices: Brokers or agents do not necessarily work with all possible overseas facilities, which means your options may be restricted.

Lack of experience: As medical tourism is a growing business, you will find some companies throwing around the term “medical tourism” without really having the first-hand knowledge of how to find and evaluate overseas medical facilities. Protect yourself by carefully reviewing the medical broker’s website and asking for references.

Step 5: Prepare for the trip

Whether you make your own arrangements or they are made by a medical travel broker, you will still need to make preparations for your trip.

  • Set the dates aside including some alternatives in case of weather conditions or additional recovery time.
  • Read about your overseas destination.  What will the weather be like?  Are there any safety considerations?  What are expectations for tipping?  Are there local tourist sites the person with you should see?
  • Make sure your passport and any required visas are current.
  • Know which medical records your overseas hospital will need and find out if you need to physically carry paper copies or if you can send them electronically.
  • Have an emergency contact back home.  Make sure they know your location and schedule as well as how to contact you and/or the medical facility you are at.


By following these five steps, you can assure yourself that traveling overseas for treatment will be a pleasant, cost-saving, and successful experience.


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    • Billsnotes profile image

      Billsnotes 6 years ago

      Thanks for your comments. I am not associated with either company mentioned above. One of the companies above plans trips to Mexico, the other to India.

    • profile image

      Cathy Spencer 6 years ago

      Though I did not come across this valuable advice, I instinctively followed just the same process. A professional facilitation company can make it much easier....I was lucky to get help from who held my hand all the way

    • profile image

      Gabriel Senior 7 years ago

      Thanks Bill. Well said. Any medical traveler should follow these steps in order to assure a smooth and seamless process.

      Gabriel Senior

      Travel For Care