Increasingly, Australians are choosing to travel abroad – especially to Asian destinations like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore – for medical procedures ranging from cosmetic through to major dental and orthopedic.
And while exact outbound figures are sketchy (they sit at an estimated 15,000 people), companies such as German-based medical travel provider Medigo.com are proof that the Australian medical tourism market is becoming increasingly lucrative.
“Australians have a unique travelling spirit and a thirst for information,” begins Medigo.com co-founder, Pawel Cebula.
“As procedures can often be more costly at home, we believe a lot of Australians are looking for the best value when it comes to healthcare, and for some this means combining quality medical care with an overseas holiday.
“Australians aren’t easily intimidated by the prospect of a long distance flight, and lower airline prices for flights to Phuket, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and other Asian destinations are helping them to travel for medical care more often at a lower price.”
Determined to increase its presence in the Australasian region and better service its growing Aussie and New Zealand client base, Medigo.com recently opened its first Australian office.
“We have already built up our Australian audience to a strong level and in fact, it’s our largest market in terms of patient numbers. However, as this market continues to grow, having a team on the ground in Sydney allows us to be closer to our Australian patients and communicate with them more efficiently regarding care,” Cebula continues.
“Furthermore, we have a team of Australian professionals on board in Berlin who help to tailor the experience for Australians.”
Overwhelmingly, most of Medigo.com’s patients travel to Thailand for treatment with 86 per cent heading to Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai, but rising in popularity is Malaysia and even destinations like Spain, which is renowned for its world-class fertility treatments, such as IVF.
“We have a truly global and comprehensive network of 500 clinics and hospitals in 20 countries, offering patients a range of treatment options in 35 medical specialties including dentistry, orthopedic surgery and oncology,” says Cebula.
The company is also in talks with a number of Australian and New Zealand travel businesses and insurers to broaden the range of services they can offer Australian patients.
“(Medigo.com) offers exception support to our patients with our 24.7 Care Team who are dedicated to providing timely responses and assistance throughout the entire medical travel journey.
“Additionally, assistance with scheduling a medical appointment via our platform is completely free to the patient. We have extra services that are available for purchase through our Care Plans including flight and hotel organisation, on-site translators and more.
If you are considering a medical trip abroad it’s vital you do your homework.
Always ask whether there is an anaesthesiologist service for post-op care, ICU services, or other emergency services to limit complication risks.
Be very clear on what your procedure involves and always ensure your practitioners speak the same language to avoid miss communication.
If you want to see the sights, do it before your procedure or plan a separate holiday. It’s vital you give yourself adequate and quiet time to recover, just as you would at home so forget those ideas of pina coladas by the pool.
Ask about the qualifications of all who’ll be in charge of your care – doctors, surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses. Also ask how many times your surgeon has conducted the procedure on international patients and with what degree of success.
Ensure all hospitals and doctors have accreditation with recognised international bodies.
Go beyond your own personal travel insurance – check that the hospital or clinic has adequate medical indemnity insurance and if you’re using a medical tourism company, like Medigo.com, ask what procedures are in place if things do go wrong.
Speak at length with your surgeon: Meeting ahead of time will ensure you both have the same expectations and give you an opportunity to ask direct questions.
Give yourself ample time at your destination. That way, if things don’t go to plan, you’ll have opportunities for revisits to your physician.
And finally, ask what products the clinic is using and ask about the hospital’s sterilisation standards, infection control and age of machinery.
Companies like Medigo.com do all this leg work for you, but it’s still important you stay in charge of your own healthcare and ask the important questions.
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