Awkward Landing

An untimely injury can leave you with some questions about the best way to proceed.  While no injury would truly be considered timely, what varies is our ability to attain the best treatment at a given point in time.  In my case, it was a complete separation of my acromioclavicular (AC) joint in my shoulder.  As the result of an awkward landing during Tuesday night pickup soccer at the YMCA, I had torn the ligaments that connect my shoulder to my clavicle.  After gaining some clarity from the initial pain and confusion, and very politely declining the offer from another player to reset my shoulder right there on the field (good thing considering that I found out about an hour later that it wasn’t dislocated), my buddy and teammate asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital.  Funny to think that one of first things I replied as I sat there clutching my arm trying to decide whether or not to go to the hospital was that I didn’t have insurance.  Ultimately, I did go, and after receiving emergency attention at the nearest hospital southwest of Chicago’s loop, the real conundrum of continued treatment began.  Being uninsured, it became a game of wait and see.  It’s an interesting position to be in when deciding how long to delay getting a bum shoulder treated.

A few days after my injury, I was still getting used to my stylish new sling when another good friend approached me about joining him in a venture focused on medical travel.  This was an idea that he’d mentioned before but that had now progressed into its next iteration.  An impromptu power point presentation in his home office ensued, I had the “aha” moment, then hitched my laptop to his.  Our team is now a round 7 with the summer interns.  In coming on board at HuliHealth, I found an opportunity to put myself in the shoes of the medical traveler.

In order to get a better sense of the challenge we were tackling, I used my injury as a test case.  Fortunately in my case, I ended up not needing surgery.  Nevertheless, remembering my feelings and thoughts at a time when I couldn’t fathom a suitable solution, given the expense of treatment, that didn’t compromise the health of my shoulder, I can only imagine what someone who had a more serious ailment would have felt.  After a couple of Google searches to pin down the exact terminology used to describe my condition and the specific procedures used to remedy it, I started going through a list of the more robust medical travel websites.  However, I became confused since according to some of the language, it’s unclear whether I’m in the market for healthcare or a used car: “Save up to 70% by going abroad for your treatment!” screams the homepage to any passerby that will glance its direction.  Despite the sales-pitchy nature of the message, it’s possible (depending on the circumstances surrounding these savings) that this could have been a very favorable scenario.  Let’s dig deeper.  At this point, an obstacle emerged, the infamous black box, the place from whence the “all-in-one” solution comes.  After typing in ‘shoulder arthroscopy,’ I was either given a list of hospitals, with little or no explanation as to why these particular hospitals were the best fit, or I was prompted to send in my information in return for a “quote” from a medical tourism facilitator.  The triple threat of mass generalization, unclear provider/medical tourism facilitator affiliations and the all-in-one solution pose a veritable fortress around the things I hold dear:  transparency, efficiency, and clear information.  As a medical traveler, what is my next step?...

by Ellery Bledsoe

Have you experienced an untimely injury/illness when you were without insurance coverage?  How did you handle it?  Tell us about it in the comments or send me an email: