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Should You Travel for Healthcare?

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More People Are Seeking Medical Treatment Abroad

The quality of care is a big selling point for many -- often it is just as good as (or better than) in the U.S. This is due in part to an increasing number of foreign doctors choosing to get trained at American medical schools. Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, which treats more than 400,000 medical travelers each year, including a reported 64,000 Americans, has more than 200 doctors who are board-certified in the U.S. In addition, several overseas hospitals have partnered with U.S. medical schools to improve the level of care they provide -- National University Hospital in Singapore has teamed with Johns Hopkins Medical School, and Harvard University has opened a medical institute in Dubai. "It's becoming more and more common for hospitals with a large number of foreign patients to have doctors who trained overseas," says Dan Snyder, group COO of ParkwayHealth, a private healthcare provider in Asia.

What's more, foreign hospitals are now being accredited by the Joint Commission International. Those that apply for and receive JCI accreditation must meet hundreds of safety standards and be able to verify the credentials and licenses of the doctors and nurses who work there, says Timmons. "Currently we have more than 160 accredited hospitals around the world, and we're seeing a tremendous increase in the number of medical centers interested in initiating the process."

To top it off, it's gotten easier for Americans to seek treatment abroad because of the increasing number of medical-travel agencies. These companies, whose fees are often paid by the hospitals, do the legwork for patients, like researching the reputations and specialties of different clinics and doctors. They also arrange for travel, a place to recover and the transfer of medical records.

Patients say the rave reviews they hear about English-speaking staffs, high nurse-to-patient ratios, plenty of face time with their doctor, and luxurious facilities are persuasive. "My doctor was fluent in four languages," says Thorkelson. "He answered every question I asked. When I returned home, my physician in Florida looked at my knee and said it was a beautiful surgery."

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