US Inbound Medical Travel, No Walk in the Park

This post marks the first installment of our “Patient's Corner” series.  Fernando Gil (Costa Rica) is our first guest blogger, and here he recounts his wife's and his experience with traveling abroad for healthcare.

Even though medical tourism has been on the rise in the last few years and has now become a booming industry people have been traveling for their healthcare needs for many years. My wife was born with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot; it's a rare and complex heart defect in which the patient is born with a different heart structure that affects the normal flow of blood through the heart. Five months after she was born she traveled to Chicago to undergo the first of several procedures to fix her lung and when she was two and half years old she returned for open heart surgery to repair her heart, since then she has to continue getting routine check-ups.

Unlike most of the people that travel from the United States, she traveled and still travels to the U.S. to get treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. The reason for this is that her condition is not common; it affects 5 out of 10,000 babies, so in a country like Costa Rica, where we are from, with just over 4.5 million people and a birth rate of approximately 75,695 babies a year there are only 38 expected cases and to find a Doctor or a hospital which specializes and treats an adequate number of patients with the condition is impossible. In the United States with a population of more than 313 million and a birth rate of 4,332,000 babies a year, the number of expected cases is around 2,100 a year, so the situation is the exact opposite with some hospitals having complete wards dedicated to the treatment of birth related heart conditions.

Right now we are scheduling a routine check up for the second half of this year. It has proven to be a tremendous hassle, because even though the hospital that we usually visit for this has an international desk, they have been having trouble getting access to the Doctors appointment book to work our appointment in. This would be so much easier if we could directly access the appointment book, see our options and book it directly and from there continue to book the rest of our travel needs (hotel, airplane tickets, rental cars, etc.).

by Fernando Gil

Do you have any experience with traveling for healthcare or know someone who does?  Tell us about it in the comments or send me an email: