How to Find a Good Medical Travel Agency
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How to Find a Good Medical Travel Agency

Using special travel agencies that set out to match patients with physicians abroad, roughly half a million Americans traveled overseas last year to receive medical procedures at rock-bottom prices. Here, we tell you what to look for when finding the right medical travel agency for you.

What to Ask

Since there's no licensing or certification process, it's important to do your homework before choosing a medical travel agency. What to ask:

How long have you been in business?

You want to pick an agency that's been around for more than a year and has arranged overseas care for at least 20 patients, says Renee-Marie Stephano, JD, general counsel and COO for the Medical Tourism Association. "This way, you know they've sent a fair number of patients abroad and have a good understanding of the industry."

What are the credentials of the people working for you?

A good agency will have a registered nurse or a doctor on staff to help with the matching of patient to physician and with the transfer (and translation) of medical records.

Do you send patients primarily to one facility?

This should be a red flag, says Stephanie Sulger, RN, of BridgeHealth International Inc. in Denver, Colorado. "Agencies that use only one facility may be more interested in a commission than the right patient-hospital match." Ideally, you should be presented with several options for surgeons, all based on how many similar procedures he or she has performed, the success rate, and patient feedback.

What steps do you take to verify a potential doctor's credentials?

The agency should request this information directly from the hospital and not be getting it from a third-party source such as a Web site. Many will then take the extra step to independently verify the information themselves by calling the medical school or hospital where the doctor trained or worked, says Sulger.

How will my medical records be handled?

According to Stephano, it's the agency's responsibility to send your records to the hospital and arrange for them to be sent back after the surgery. A reputable agency will be able to handle records electronically and provide translation services should they come back in the doctor's native language.

What if I decide not to go through with the procedure?

Only work with an agency that offers a guarantee, says Patrick Marsek of MedRetreat. "This way, if you get to the country, have a consultation and hospital tour, and aren't completely comfortable with the situation, you can opt out, return home, and receive a complete refund of your deposit."

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, August 2008.

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