Many patients are nervous about traveling abroad for medical treatment, fearing the quality of medical care outside of the United States. Many feel it would be inferior to what they could find at home. In the past, this was a valid concern, but in the 21st century it is becoming more common for patients to look outside of the United States for healthcare. A term was even coined, medical tourists, to refer to these patients.
Medical tourism is not applicable to all medical treatments. As of writing, it is most common for cosmetic and heart surgery, dentistry and a handful of specialized medical procedures, including IVF treatment. In some cases, medical tourism is picked because there are select medical procedures either not available or more commonly available outside of the United States. For most medical tourists, the primary reason to travel abroad for healthcare is the cost. This includes the rising cost of IVF medications such as Gonal f and Follistim. So should you consider medical tourism for your IVF treatment?
What is the quality of healthcare services outside of the United States?
There are many misconceptions about healthcare quality in other parts of the world. The medical community is significantly more unified than other global fields, which are normally competing with one another. In the medical community, the goal is to help patients, so there is no need to keep secrets from one another. Today, doctors openly share medical information with one another, and medical equipment is universally available.
There are still differences in medical quality, largely determined by whether a location can afford medical schools and equipment. As with any treatment, whether you are staying within the United States or traveling abroad, you must do your research to make sure you are selecting the right treatment center. When these basic requirements are not met, it often goes hand in hand with drug interactions, such as gonal f drug interactions, or they use discounted gonal f, for example. Often this affects the gonal f success rate, as expired drugs may be used, generics substituted for brand, or black market medications. None of those situations you want to deal with.
Look for Certification
One of the easiest ways to tell whether a treatment center is a reliable choice is certification. Medical tourism has become so common there are specific accreditations. As of writing, two reliable sources to use are the Joint Commission International or the Patients Beyond Borders directory. Both of these list top fertility centers located all around the world. These treatment centers also have a reputation for accepting international patients.
Outside of international certification, you can also check for local accreditation. If you do not immediately recognize where an accreditation comes from, which is expected with foreign locations, take the time to look up who provided the accreditation. A big red flag to check for is whether other medical facilities are accredited by the same group. If only the single treatment center has accreditation, it is possible the certification was fabricated to make the treatment center look better.
Once you know the facility is accredited, the next step is to check the staff. Legitimate doctors list their credentials and education. Ask which medications they use in their treatment process. They should be able to tell you about gonal f, for example, and how gonal f works. If you are still on the fence about the quality of care, you can even limit your search to foreign physicians with degrees from an American university.
Communication is Key
Having accreditations is important, but before you commit to a treatment center, you must reach out to the doctor. This is an important step whether you are staying inside the United States for treatment or traveling abroad. In addition to the universal questions, such as what medications to expect or the diagnostic procedure the doctor uses, there are a few questions you must ask about international travel.
When you are traveling outside of the United States for IVF treatment, you must bring all the necessary paperwork and medical information. Get a complete list of everything your doctor needs to accurately treat you. If you are traveling someplace where English is not the primary language, check to see if you need a translator. Even if your doctor speaks perfect English, the rest of the staff may not. If possible, include your current doctor in the communication, as they not only know what questions to ask, but what information needs to be shared.
In addition to speaking with your doctor, try to reach out to former patients. If you are looking at the fertility clinic online, check to see if the clinic includes a review section. You can also do a general search for reviews of the clinic. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor about past patients as well. Depending on where you are planning to travel, it may be difficult to get in touch with patients, especially if there is a language barrier. Even if you cannot speak with the past patients directly, it is a good sign your doctor has patients to recommend at all.
For many patients, preparing for IVF treatments is overwhelming. IVF treatments involve multiple medications and procedures, many of which must be performed within a short amount of time. This adds another complication if you are planning to travel outside of the United States. When you are talking to your doctor, ask how long the treatment is likely to take.
Why is IVF cheaper outside of the United States?
For medical tourists, the biggest appeal of traveling outside of the United States for IVF treatment is the price. In many other countries, IVF is significantly less expensive than the United States. You may initially be worried seeing the difference in price, since it is so large it seems like the outside fertility clinic must be cutting corners to cause such a drastic price reduction.
In many cases, the price difference has to do with insurance. In the United States, medical procedures are often more expensive because insurance is expected to cover the majority of the costs. Unfortunately, insurance coverage for IVF treatments is unreliable. At best, patients may be able to get a portion of the costs covered, but it is not uncommon for patients to receive little to no help paying for IVF treatment. In addition, some IVF medications, such as Follistim or Gonal-F, is charged at a higher rate in the United States because it must be imported from another country. Importing medications is a rigorous process, so companies must charge more to make up for the extra import costs.
Another reason IVF treatment may cost less abroad has to do with currency differences. In some cases, a procedure may be relatively close to the cost in the United States, but because of currency differences, it is much more affordable overseas versus getting treatment at home. The bottom line is to do your homework, be thorough, and then make your decision.
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