It is estimated that a quarter-million people will undergo bariatric surgical procedures in the United States this year for the treatment of obesity and morbid obesity. Roux-n-Y gastric bypass surgery, considered the gold standard of weight loss surgery, will be performed most frequently at a cost of $40,000 or more per surgery. The less invasive gastric banding “lap-band” and gastric sleeve procedures will be performed for about $20,000 a surgery. More people are electing to travel outside the United States to have these procedures at accredited facilities where quality and safety are assured by international governing bodies and costs are less than half.
Medical Tourism: the process of “leaving home” for treatments and care abroad or elsewhere domestically – is an emerging phenomenon in the health care industry. A 2008 study suggests that Americans are leaving their homes more than ever to receive medical care outside of the nationals borders in an effort to seek quality less costly medical care. Note these points reported by the Deloitte 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers:
- Health care costs are increasing at eight percent per year – well above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), thus eating into corporate profits and household disposable income.
- The safety and quality of care available in many offshore settings is no longer an issue: Organizations including the Joint Commission International (JCI) and others are accrediting these facilities.
Receiving safe and quality care is the primary issue for consumers considering outbound medical tourism as a treatment option. Consumers seeking treatment outside United States borders should look for centers that have been reviewed y the Joint Commission International (JCI) which was launched in 1999 after a growing demand for a resource to effectively evaluate quality and safety. There are over 120 hospitals worldwide that are accredited through the JCI. Patients should also seek programs touting these attributes:
- U.S.-trained physicians and care teams
- English language services
- Use of clinical information technologies
- Use of evidence-based clinical guidelines
- Affiliations with reputable, top-tier U.S. provider organizations
- Coordination of pre- and post-discharge care
- Provision for adverse events requiring services unavailable in the facility
Safety questions are answered in frequent reviews by the JCI and other governing bodies to protect the safety and rights of the medical tourist. Safety questions in the accreditation process include:
- Are the accreditation certificates regularly renewed?
- Is the hospital following all the standard safety norms? Are the disposables being taken care of properly?
- Are the food and inpatient facilities hygienic?
- Is staff fluent in English or is interpreter competent to prevent any miscommunication?
- How safe and secure is the environment at the provider site?
- What are the precautions to be taken for the post-procedural care?
Packages and Financing:
Packages will frequently include, but are not limited to, hospital stay, hotel stay, ground transportation, blood test and X-rays, surgery, anesthesiologist’s fees, surgeon’s assistant’s fee, surgeon’s fees, nurses fees, discharge medications, medical devices and miscellany. Transportation to and from the destination and the cost of a traveling companion is not included in most packages. Many centers facilitate financing for the medical procedures they offer through a third party financing company not associated with the medical facility.