Medical tourism: what are the risks and how to minimize them?

Medical tourism: what are the risks and how to minimize them?

Arrest of doctor who treated Dallas woman who died four years ago highlights potential dangers
Arrest of doctor who treated Dallas woman who died four years ago highlights potential dangers

This week the arrest of a doctor in Ciudad Juárez was announced , four years after the death of Laura Ávila, a Dallas woman who went for surgery at the RinoCenter clinic in October 2018.

Ávila fell into a coma shortly after the anesthetic was applied. Her family decided to disconnect her days later after her brain death.

This new development in the case highlights the dangers of going to another country for a surgical procedure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance on these risks.

What kind of treatments are sought?

According to the CDC, millions of Americans or residents of the country travel to Mexico and Canada for medical tourism.

The reasons are often because of cost, culture, or to receive a procedure or therapy that does not exist in the United States.

The most common procedures, detailed by the CDC, are dental, plastic surgery, fertility treatments and even transplants and cancer treatments.

What are the risks of medical tourism?

The risks depend on the destination, where the procedures are performed and the physical conditions of the patient.

There are risks of infection due to complications of the procedure, as well as antibiotic-resistant infections, which are more common in other countries.

The quality of treatment is another concern. “The requirements in other countries for licenses, credentials and accreditations may be less than what is required in the United States. Counterfeit medicines or low-quality medical equipment may be used in other countries,” the CDC says.

Other risks are communication problems when the language is not known, air travel –which increases the risk of thrombosis in certain patients– and the need for continued medical care, since it may require attention due to complications upon return. .

How to minimize the risks?

This does not mean that these trips should be avoided at all costs. The CDC recommends that you seek medical advice before traveling.

The CDC advises that you talk to your health care provider 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to learn more about other possible risks.

Get travel medical insurance that covers a medical evacuation to the United States

Before planning a vacation, find out what activities are not allowed after a medical procedure.

The CDC also recommends that you bring copies of your medical certificates, lab tests, and other evidence regarding your condition, so doctors at your destination have the necessary information.

Bring a health kit with all your prescription and non-prescription medications to last you the entire trip. Get the generic names of your medicines.

Bring medical certificates from your destination before you return home and, if necessary, have them translated into English.

What else can be done?

Do some research on the medical provider and the hospital or clinic offering the treatment. There are international groups such as Joint Commission International, DNV GL International Accreditation for Hospital, among others, that guarantee that there are certain standards in hospitals worldwide

The CDC also advises visiting these sites for more detailed information:

  • CDC Yellow Book: Medical Tourism
  • American Medical Association Ethical Guidance on Medical Tourism
  • American Medical Association Guidelines on Medical Tourism
  • Organization for Safety, Asepsis, & Prevention’s Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care
  • The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery guidelines for travelers
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons: Dangers of Plastic Surgery Tourism