Medical tourism can leave you in stitches
ACCORDING to a new report, Australians are increasingly seeking health-related treatments overseas, including eye surgery, dental work and fertility procedures.
The study, by the Londonbased Economist Intelligence Unit, which considers worldwide business trends, looks at the potential of medical tourism in 60 countries.
According to report editor Ana Nicholls, we travel to Asia, in particular, for treatments because of the ‘‘lower cost, and to beat growing waiting lists for elective surgery’’. She says medical tourism in the region is predicted to grow by 16 per cent per annum in coming years. Governments in advanced as well as developing countries recognise the lucrative economic impact of medical tourism but a dearth of statistics on the frequency, nature and success rates of patient experiences makes it difficult to weigh up the real benefits and risks, such as the recently reported spread of a post-surgical superbug in India.
Nonetheless, those unable to afford private health care or the spiralling gap for complex procedures in Australia undergo, say, liver transplants in Singapore, stem-cell therapy in China and cosmetic surgery in Thailand, where 80 per cent of such patients are from overseas, according to the EIU.
The Australian Medical Association and Australian Dental Association caution against this type of travel. The AMA’S federal president, Steve Hambleton, says prospective patients need to consider ‘‘the regulatory systems in the destination’’ and ‘‘the credentials of the surgeon’’. He adds that Australia has ‘‘one of the best health systems in the world, with accredited hospitals and highly trained surgeons’’.
ADA policy recommends we ‘‘should avoid travelling overseas for . . . dental treatment’’ due to time restrictions, possible communication difficulties, and issues such as lack of insurance cover, recourse and availability of records.