One of the key fears that most people express about our living on the road is what they perceive as a lack of quality healthcare. While that can often be an issue in more remote locations, Asia offers up several interesting options for those looking for a good doctor. In fact, several Asian nations including Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and India are making a name for themselves in the field of medical tourism offering up good quality, good value hospitals and dental facilities.
Most Westerners would be stunned by the quality of many private healthcare centers we have visited. We both have had yearly physicals at Bangkok’s BNH Hospital. Full physicals included blood pressure, EKGs, complete blood work, chest x-rays, urine and stool checks, eye exams, and consultation with an English-speaking doctor. (My doctor was actually British.) Urine, stool, blood tests, EKG, and chest x-rays are completely processed while you dine (free of charge) in the in-house restaurant. Total price: $220 US. And the facility is better than anything I have ever been to in the United States or Germany.
Part of why we came back to Malaysia from Bali was to visit a doctor at Kuala Lumpur’s well-known Gleneagles Hospital. My doctor was educated in London and service was professional and MUCH easier to arrange than in the West. I was able to organize all the necessary procedures for that same day – much faster than I ever could have booked them in the United States. Very impressive.
But medical tourists need to take special precautions when using foreign facilities. Not all countries maintain the same standards and some facilities can be downright awful. So here is some advice for fellow travelers or medical tourists to help you find the right facility.
Tips for Choosing a Medical Facility While Abroad
1. Don’t assume all well advertised or high-cost facilities are professional or have well-educated staff. Medical tourism is a business like any other.
2. Ask your doctors as well as friends and family for specific recommendations. Also, do your homework before you choose a facility. There are many books for potential medical tourists out there to help them make educated choices. Online research can be helpful, but use online reviews and forum information with caution. Some facilities spend more time advertising and promoting themselves than they do educating their staffs.
3. I regularly check the U.S. Embassy website for a particular country for their recommendations for local hospitals and specific doctors. The embassy prepares such lists to help staff and citizens make better choices about choosing medical or dental facilities while abroad. Here is an example list (PDF) that I used from the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Other embassies also prepare such lists.
4. When researching a particular medical institution abroad, look at their accreditation. International accreditation such as JCI (Joint Commission International), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) accredited hospitals are preferable.
5. Most good medical facilities will have online descriptions of their staff, including where they trained. This will help you determine the quality of your doctor.