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Should You Travel for Healthcare?

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How to Get Safe Healthcare in Another Country

For now, the best way to ensure a safe and successful trip is with research. Here's what you need to do before you go:

1. Read up.

Two good places to start: the book Patients Beyond Borders by Josef Woodman and the Web site, which is run by a team of medical and IT professionals. The book and the site have basic information about planning a trip and contact numbers for medical-travel agencies, hospitals and clinics. (Double-check that any hospital you're considering is JCI-accredited by logging on to

2. Contact the hospital.

Ask to speak to a patient-services coordinator (most hospitals have one). A few important questions to go over with her: Do doctors and support personnel speak English? How many surgeries like yours has the doctor you're considering performed, and what is his or her success rate? How up-to-date is the equipment? Where were support staff, such as ICU nurses and anesthesiologists, trained?

3. Get references.

Once you've narrowed down your list to a handful of doctors, it's time to request references. "Ask for the names of past American patients and call them," says Dr. Mahal. You will want to find out what they thought of the physician and the hospital and whether they were pleased with the overall experience. Also, be sure to ask whether they experienced any complications.

4. Make plans for aftercare before you go.

Let your U.S. doctors (both your GP and any specialists you see) know that you're going abroad for treatment. Ask if they're willing to provide follow-up care and, if not, whether they'll phone colleagues on your behalf before you leave. "Physicians are much more likely to accept a referral when it comes from another physician," says Dr. Baxamusa.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2008.


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