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Wednesday, July 12, 2006 9:47 PM

Medical Tourism

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Why have routine (and not so routine) medical and dental services performed in the US when you can have them done cheaper elsewhere and get a free vacation out of it to boot?

Medical Tourism India is a developing concept whereby people from world over visit India for their medical and relaxation needs. Most common treatments are heart surgery, knee transplant, cosmetic surgery and dental care. The reason India is a favourable destination is because of it's infrastructure and technology in which is in par with those in USA, UK and Europe. India has some of the best hospitals and treatment centers in the world with the best facilities.

Dental Services

Heart Surgery

A heart care surgery which costs in the region of USD 30,000 in USA can cost as low as USD 8,000 in India.

Cardiac care has become a speciality in India with institutions like the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Apollo Hospital becoming names to reckon with. They combine the latest innovations in medical electronics with unmatched expertise in leading cardiologists and cardo-thoracic surgeons. These centers have the distinction of providing comprehensive cardiac care spanning from basic facilities in preventive cardiology to the most sophisticated curative technology. The technology is contemporary and world class and the volumes handled match global benchmarks. They also specialise in offering surgery to high risk patients with the introduction of innovative techniques like minimally invasive and robotic surgery.

Renowned Indian hospitals like Apollo and Escorts Heart Institute are equipped to handle all phases of heart diseases from the elementary to the latest clinical procedures like interventional cardiac catherisation and surgical cardiac transplants. Their success rate at an average of 98.50% is at par with leading cardiac centers around the world.

Leading heart centers like The Escorts Heart Institute have Cardiac Care Units with sophisticated equipment and investigative facilities like Echocardiography with coloured Doppler, Nuclear Scanning and Coronary Angiography. The Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology in Bangalore, the Cardiology Hospital in Kanpur, the Heart Hospital in Calicut and the Sree Sudihindra Medical Mission Hospital in Cochin are some hospitals in India devoted exclusively to cardiac treatment.
Elective Surgeries By World-Class Doctors At Third-World Prices

On September 4th 2005, 60 Minutes did a documentary entitled Vacation, Adventure And Surgery?
This summer, millions headed out to foreign lands for vacation, adventure, tourism, or just a beautiful beach.

But how about hip surgery or a multiple bypass or a facelift?

A growing number of tourists are doing just that, combining holidays with health care, and that's because a growing number of countries are offering first-rate medical care at Third-World prices. Many of these medical tourists can't afford health care at home (the 40 million uninsured Americans, for example). Others are going for procedures not covered by their insurance: cosmetic surgery or infertility treatment, for example.

Thailand is an exotic vacation spot known for its Buddhas, its beaches, its brothels, and the bustle of Bangkok.

But for people needing medical care, it’s known increasingly for Bumrungrad Hospital, a luxurious place that claims to have more foreign patients than any other hospital in the world. It’s like a United Nations of patients here, and they’re cared for by more than 500 doctors, most with international training.

The hospital has state-of-the-art technology, and here’s the clincher: the price. Treatment here costs about one-eighth what it does in the United States. It's the No. 1 international hospital in the world.

"It’s sort of Ground Zero. I haven’t heard anybody yet who’s told us that they take more than 350,000 international patients a year," says Curt Schroeder, CEO of Bumrungrad.

One patient is Byron Bonnewell, who lives 12,000 miles away in Shreveport, La., where he owns and runs a campground for RVs. A year-and-a-half ago, he had a heart attack, and his doctor told him he really needed bypass surgery.

"They told me I was gonna die," says Bonnewell, who didn't have insurance.

He estimates he would have had to pay over $100,000 out of his own pocket for the operation he needed, a complicated quintuple bypass.

But Bonnewell says his health was deteriorating quickly, when he read about Bumrungrad Hospital: "I was in my doctor's office one day having some tests done, and there was a copy of Business Week magazine there. And there was an article in Business Week magazine about Bumrungrad Hospital. And I came home and went on the Internet and made an appointment, and away I went to Thailand."

He made that appointment after he learned that the bypass would cost him about $12,000.

But three days after walking into the hospital, he was on the operating table. Two weeks later, he was home.

How does he feel? "Wonderful. I wish I’d found them sooner," says Bonnewell. "Because I went through a year – I was in bad shape. I couldn’t walk across the room."

"I found it so strange in Thailand, because they were all registered nurses. Being in a hospital in the United States, we see all kinds of orderlies, all kinds of aides, maybe one RN on duty on the whole floor of the hospital," says Bonnewell. "In Thailand, I bet I had eight RNs just on my section of the floor alone. First-class care."

Stephanie Sedlmayr didn’t want to spend the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to get the hip surgery she needed. And she didn’t have insurance, either. So with her daughter by her side, she flew from Vero Beach, Fla., to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She’d never been to India before, but she already knew quite a bit about Indian doctors

"My doctor, actually, in Vero Beach, she's an Indian doctor. So, why not go where they come from?" asks Sedlmayr, who says her friends questioned her decision. "Hardly anybody said, 'Oh, great idea.'"

But she didn’t just come here to save money; she came for an operation she couldn’t get at home. It’s called hip resurfacing, and it has changed people’s lives.

It hasn’t been approved yet by the FDA, but in India, Dr. Vijay Bose has performed over 300 of them. He showed 60 Minutes the difference between a hip resurfacing and hip replacement, which is the standard operation performed in the United States. He says his patients usually recover faster because his procedure is far less radical and doesn’t involve cutting the thighbone.

Instead, Bose fits a metal cap over the end, which fits into a metal socket in the hip. The result, he says, is that patients end up with enough mobility to do virtually anything.

"So my patients, you know, play football, basketball, whatever you want. Not a problem," says Bose.

Until the FDA approves it, the only way to have this operation in the United States is by getting into a clinical trial. But be warned: It isn’t cheap.

How much does it cost in the States?

"I believe it costs something from $28,000 to $32,000 U.S. dollars," says Bose.

And in India, Sedlmayr says it costs $5,800: "Private nurse after surgery. And, feeling always that they were just totally attentive. If you rang the bell next to your bed, whoop, somebody was there immediately."

Thailand Travel Expenses
Travel expenses, including the cost of air fare to Thailand & 3 star Bangkok Hotel, are off set by savings.

2006 costs & expenses for a couple different procedures
Diagnostic: MRI: 10, 000Thb, US$200. EU170., AUD$265.
Economy airfare from the US or Europe to Thailand is usually available for less than $700
add to the transpacific round trip 4 nights in a tourist hotel and $200.
expense for MRI US$1000 MRI with free transpacific airfare & 4 nights 3 star hotel.

Dental: Root canal & cap front tooth: 14,000Thb US$354. AUD$481. EU284
Dental Tourism is a no brainer.
The savings on one major tooth repair, on 1 (one) tooth, can pay for a vacation.
Multiple teeth & it's money in the bank + the vacation.
When you can fly to India or Thailand and get world class care for 20% of the US cost, saving $80,000 on a heart operation something has to give. That something is US prices for goods and services.

How much longer will it be before some HMOs require someone to fly to India or Thailand for treatment? Better yet will be an HMO that offers reduced prices for those willing to do so. Obviously if you are in an accident and need services immediately there is no choice. But on major dental work or elective procedures, or even scheduled heart transplants, for those in the know it may be foolish to have those procedures performed in the US.

Globalization has just begun in many respects. We keep moving up the ladder from manufacturing, to research and development, and now to medical operations. The Fed can pump all it wants, but if the cost is low enough somewhere else the cost of that service simply must come down.

By the way, deflation is not a bad thing as the Fed wants you to believe. Falling prices are a great thing (provided of course you are not over leveraged to your house, credit cards, or other things). Unfortunately the average person is indeed over leveraged to houses and other debt.

Nonetheless, the Fed's ability to inflate has run smack into a "Big No" from globalization (in addition to a housing bust that has just started). Simply put, it takes an ever increasing amount of debt to produce minor returns in the GDP at a time when the savings rate from cash strapped consumers is already an unprecedented negative 1.7%. In addition, a falling US dollar will only increase the number of jobs that can be outsourced and that only increases the wage problem. What you are witnessing is "Economic Zugzwang" but the Fed does not realize it yet.

Mike Shedlock / Mish

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