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Everything You Need to Know About Traveling For a Hip Replacement

Posted on Thu, Jan 18, 2018

It is common for a person’s hip joint to break down through normal wear and tear. Other conditions, such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and bone tumors can contribute significantly to the weakening of the hip joint. While doctors typically recommend less invasive forms of treatment to begin with, such as lifestyle changes or mobility aids, modern medicine has developed surgical techniques for treating damaged hip joints that require medical intervention.

The most popular procedure, known as a hip replacement, thankfully does not involve replacing the entire hip. Instead, it is a relatively noninvasive operation during which a surgeon will make an incision near the damaged joint and, using fine motor coordination and technique, carve out the damaged section before replacing it with a fully functional, artificial part.

However, like many surgical procedures, hip replacements can be quite expensive and require a period of low activity from patients during recovery. These factors have prompted many who are considering a hip replacement to look abroad for medical treatment. These medical tourists travel thousands of miles, sometimes overseas, to find the highest quality care at the lowest price. If this sounds like you or someone that you know, here is everything that you need to know about traveling for a hip replacement.

Find a Reputable Surgeon

Thanks to the rise of medical tourism, many highly skilled surgeons are setting up shop in popular destinations such as Mexico, India, and Thailand. However, prospective patients should still be wary of second rate physicians offering seemingly good deals on medical care. Although the medical tourist industry self-regulates very well, many countries popular among healthcare travelers don’t have strong, reliable regulations of their own.

To avoid a scam, make sure to read about patient experiences for the surgeons that you are considering. Legitimate doctors will likely have partnered with local hospitals or built up reputations of their own back in the United States. It’s never a bad idea to consult with your general practitioner on your choice of surgeons and hear their thoughts.

Make Travel Plans Before You Leave

After you finish surgery you will probably want nothing more than to lie down and rest. This is a good thing and taking it easy will help your body heal, but it also means that you must take care of all logistics and planning before you depart. The two most important things to plan out are lodging and travel.

If you plan on taking a recovery vacation in your destination of choice, as many medical tourists do, you case travel apps like AirBnB to secure a place for rest and recovery. If you plan on returning home shortly after your surgery, it is advisable to travel via air ambulance. Traveling after surgery without appropriate medical support can leave you vulnerable to dangerous complications such as blood clots.

You should also consider how you plan on traveling to your destination. Longs flights can be difficult and uncomfortable for those with hip trouble. If you cannot find a friend or family member who will help you travel, a medical escort can see to all of your needs. Medical escorts can also be very helpful if you have unrelated conditions that make travel difficult.

Talk to Your Physician About a Pre-Surgery Workup

Virtually any surgical procedure will put some amount of stress on your body. This is why it is important to speak with your general practitioner about your plans for surgery and travel before finalizing the details. Be sure to ask your physician if it is appropriate for you to travel and, if so, what precautions you should take. Additionally, confirm that a hip replacement is the ideal path to treat your symptoms and that you are healthy and prepared to undergo surgery.

Traveling for a hip replacement is a great way to feel better and save money. If you decide to fly for surgery, make sure you do so responsibly by following the guidelines presented here. Good luck on your treatment and recovery!

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Five Tips for Planning an Air Ambulance Flight

Posted on Thu, Dec 21, 2017

If you’re traveling for medical tourism, or your local healthcare providers aren’t prepared to offer the speciality care that you’re seeking, then you’ve probably thought about traveling via air ambulance to make your journey as safe and comfortable as possible.

Planning an air ambulance flight can seem daunting. However, a reliable air ambulance provider will help you through each step of the process. In order to help your provider supply you with the best care possible and ensure your own peace of mind, here are some tips for planning an air ambulance flight.

Identify Your Destination

Whether you’re shopping around for the best prices on treatment or you seek specialized care, it’s important to find the best destination to offer you the care you’re after. Air ambulances capable of international travel mean that patients are no longer restricted to limited regional healthcare. Speak with medical professionals about where the best care is available and read patient experiences online in order to find the best destination for you.

Research Air Ambulance Providers

The air ambulance you choose to fly with is almost as important as the doctor you choose to receive care from. Here are some questions to ask before committing to a particular air ambulance:

  • Is the company accredited? A reliable air ambulance company will be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS), which regulates and oversees medical transport providers.
  • Does the company have the aircraft I need? Depending on the distance that you plan on traveling, different types of aircraft will be appropriate. A good air ambulance provider should have a wide variety of aircraft to match a patient’s needs.
  • What level of clinicians and providers will travel with the patient? AMR Air Ambulance provides a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist on every flight. More specialized providers may travel with the patient in certain cases.

Prepare Important Documents

As a patient, it is critical that you provide your chosen air ambulance service with all the relevant medical information. Without this information, your air ambulance will not be able to give you the best care possible.

Beyond medical documents, it’s important to check that your passport is current and to apply for any required foreign visas well in advance. Assembling these documents well in advance and keeping them with you at all times will ensure that your air ambulance experience goes as smoothly as possible.

Pack Appropriately

Air ambulances have to carry lots of medical equipment in order to monitor a patient’s condition and respond to any medical emergency that might come up. This means that there is limited room for luggage, so it’s important to pack the essentials as efficiently as possible.

Besides the documents previously mentioned, you’ll also want to pack appropriate clothing for the medical care that you’re going to receive as well as your favorite snacks, books and other entertainment. Regarding clothing, many healthcare providers will indicate what sort of clothing the patient should bring. Typically, loose-fitting clothes that allow the body to breath and can be taken off without irritating an incision site are recommended for surgery. Regarding snacks and entertainment, even if you’re just traveling in North America, your destination probably won’t carry the same products that you’re used to back home, so it’s important to stock up.

Arrange Ground Transportation

An air ambulance can only take you from one airport to another. It’s important to find qualified ground transport to take you to and from the terminal. Often times your air ambulance provider will arrange this transportation for you, but it’s important to speak with them beforehand so that you receive the most seamless care possible.

Flying by air ambulance can seem like a daunting undertaking at first, but with proper planning, your trip can be totally free of stress.

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Do You Really Need Medical Travel Insurance?

Posted on Fri, Dec 08, 2017

This February, a 74 year-old woman from British Columbia was in a tragic car accident while on vacation in California. After her vehicle was struck, she was rushed to the hospital. During her time there she racked up 400 pages worth of medical bills, adding up to more than $500,000. Like many who travel, she was insured in her home country, and would have paid a fraction of that cost had she been injured there. However, very few basic health insurance plans will cover the cost of treatment abroad. This prompts many to ask the question: do I need medical travel insurance?

What is Medical Travel Insurance?

In the United States, conventional health insurance supports the medical costs that we incur in our daily lives and helps us cope with the high cost of emergency treatment if we become seriously injured. The National Institute of Health estimates that a single visit to the emergency room alone costs an average of $1,233. Keep in mind this number is an average, so it reflects the number of emergency room cases that are quick fixes. The cost is much higher for more severe health problems.

While domestic health insurance can help with the cost of treatment at home, things become much stickier abroad. One common myth about seeing a doctor in a foreign country is that the country’s universal healthcare will pay for your visit. Even in countries with robust, government-sponsored healthcare programs, this is simply untrue. As the CDC notes, no foreign government is going to cover the cost of your medical treatment while you are a guest in their country.

This is where medical travel insurance is valuable. A medical travel insurance plan will help to alleviate the cost of medical treatment abroad. As with domestic health insurance, there are a wide variety of plans available to cover a range of medical needs abroad. Unlike with domestic insurance, however, someone looking to purchase medical travel insurance may find themselves picking particular countries in which the plan will apply.

Who Needs Medical Travel Insurance?

So do you need medical travel insurance? It depends. Similar to the domestic insurance market, the reason for having a variety of plan options available is that no one plan will cover every person’s needs; different people have different things to gain or lose from a medical travel insurance plan. Here are some groups of people with more to gain:

  • Adventure Tourists: Adventure tourism is on the rise as young people start to make their way into career paths that provide sufficient income and time off to support incredibly active vacations. Thanks to safety advancements in extreme sports, and the advent of air ambulances, extreme sports are no longer as dangerous as they once were. Nonetheless, according to a 2013 report compiled by the EU, over six million people are treated for sporting-related injuries each year. The message is clear: medical travel insurance can be crucial for adventure tourists.
  • Frequent Fliers: Not many Americans travel overseas for business, but those who do can often spend a lot of time out of the country with clients. When you start to spend more time abroad than in your home country, your domestic health insurance plan starts to lose its value. Medical travel insurance can be a better investment than domestic health insurance for these regular travelers.
  • Medical Tourists: As healthcare costs in America rise, medical tourism is beginning to catch on. By traveling to countries where medical standards are high (but costs remain low), many such tourists are able to save big on otherwise costly treatments. A carefully crafted travel insurance plan could help to lower these costs even further, while providing peace of mind during the ensuing recovery vacation.

Medical travel insurance isn’t for everyone, but for those who could incur high charges for medical treatment abroad, they can be indispensable.

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Passports and Medical Travel

Posted on Thu, Nov 23, 2017

All international travel is highly regulated. When you travel to a new country, you ask the permission of that country’s government to enter. In many cases, receiving approval is a trivial matter that involves filing some paperwork and waiting for it to be rubber-stamped by the right officials. However, when it’s a matter of life and death, as it can be with patients who travel internationally via air ambulance, waiting for a visa application to go through all the right channels can become very serious.   If you or a loved one are considering traveling for medical care, here are some essentials about passports and medical travel.   

Passports vs Visas

Many people who don’t often travel between countries may not understand the difference between a passport and a visa. More importantly, they often don’t know when you need both. Let’s cover the difference here.   

A passport is an official document, typically a booklet, that you receive from your home country. A passport indicates to foreign officials that you come from your home country and that you have your government’s approval to leave. Typically, you’ll apply for a passport through your own government. Be careful, though. Passports are not automatically awarded based on citizenship and can be denied for several reasons. (We’ll cover those in a minute so that you can be sure your passport application will go along smoothly).   

Visas are related, but different from passports. A visa is a document that you receive from a country that you are traveling to. If you’ve ever traveled to Canada for a weekend and you don’t remember needing a visa, there’s a reason for that. Virtually every country will require that you get a visa from them if you plan on staying past a certain length of time. For some countries, like Canada, that length of time is 180 days. This means that, as long as you don’t plan on staying there for longer than 180 consecutive days, you may enter using only your US passport.    

However, other countries may require that you get a visa if you plan on staying longer than just a few days, not nearly enough time to undergo and recover from a major operation. Even more importantly, some countries require a visa for any visit from a foreign citizen. We’ll talk about these countries in a minute, too.  

Preparing a Smooth Passport Application

There are a few reasons that a passport application may be denied. Perhaps the most common among these is an incomplete or inaccurate passport application. When filing your application, make sure that you include clear and concise documents to prove your identity and citizenship. Acceptable forms of ID include an expired passport or a birth certificate. Remember, the only copies allowed are original or certified copies. A quick photocopy from the office won’t do. It’s also important to have a regulation passport photo. The State Department is not kind to photographs that don’t meet their specific guidelines. 

When to get a Visa

When you’ll be ready to fly again after surgery is usually up to you and your doctor. In general, however, you may be cleared to fly after just one or two days following simpler surgeries or after about 10 days for more involved operations. Additionally, in order to decrease the risk of developing blood clots during your flight, you may need to have a medical escort fly with you. Blood clots are more likely to happen while flying after surgery for two reasons. First of all, the cuts sustained from surgery prompt the body to increase blood clotting as a mechanism to help the body heal. Second, blood clots are generally more likely to happen to a person who remains seated for a long period of time, as we generally do when flying.   

Every country has different requirements for how long you can stay without a visa. Let’s cover the visa-free periods for some popular medical tourism destinations. One of the most popular countries, and the one with the most stringent visa requirements, is India. India requires that anyone who wishes to the enter the country for any purpose must have a visa.
   
More forgiving are other popular countries like Thailand and Singapore, which allow visitors from the U.S. to stay for up to 30 and 90 days, respectively, without a visa. In some cases, as in Singapore, it may be necessary to apply for a medical visa in order to extend your stay.   

Passports are a critical part of traveling for medical purposes. Make sure that your passport is valid before traveling and go straight to the State Department with any questions about your destination country.      

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Getting Patients to the Care They Need

Posted on Thu, Nov 09, 2017

A young child is in dire need of heart surgery thanks to a rare congenital defect. Unfortunately, the only qualified and available surgeon is an ocean away. Without the care that she needs, doctors say that there is little hope for this child.  

Though it may seem like the stuff of movies or your favorite hospital show, situations like this come up more often than you may think. In February of 2017, a young Iranian girl named Fatemeh Reshad traveled to the United States for life-saving surgery. The operation to fix her twisted artery was much more likely to succeed under American scalpels, prompting her parents to decide to make the journey.  

The Need for Air Ambulances

Although Fatemeh’s case became news because of its connection to hotly debated political happenings, her circumstances are far from unique. In 2014, over 52,000 patients came to the US for medical care from Canada alone.   

In order to serve the needs of patients like Fatemeh, air ambulances for international travel are capable of supporting ill or injured patients on their way to the medical help they seek. Complete with mobile medical equipment to keep patients comfortable and room for family members to escort their loved ones, these air ambulances represent a growing trend of patients who don’t see borders as they look for the best care.   

One of the most pressing reasons for a patient to travel for medical care is that the very same care is either completely unavailable or relatively unreliable at their current location. This includes patients in need of highly qualified surgeons, such as Fatemeh, but there are other significant reasons why patients might travel.
  

Burn Centers

Among those reasons is access to specialized equipment. Hospitals and other medical centers often have limited space, so providers have to make choices about what kind of treatment they will accommodate in order to deliver the most effective care. For some places, that choice is to eliminate a burn center in favor of other forms of treatment as Mississippi did in 2006. Burn centers are rare enough that some states don’t have them at all. Burn victims in Delaware, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are referred to burn centers in nearby states.   

However, transporting a burn victim is no simple task. Often, these patients are unable to move on their own and are highly susceptible to contamination by bacteria that healthy skin would ordinarily provide protection from. For these reasons, conventional air travel is simply not an option. Instead, a patient can be kept in stable condition in a safe environment aboard an air ambulance bound for the nearest burn center.   

Organ Transplants

Availability of medical equipment is an important factor in regional medical care, but it’s not the only one. When doctors need to perform an organ transplant, they are often limited by the compatible organs on hand. Since organs can only last for so long outside of the body, it’s usually best to transplant them into nearby potential recipients rather than transport them across the country to a patient in need.   

For this reason, it’s not uncommon for patients requiring an organ transplant to travel to a city or hospital where they stand a better chance of getting the organ they need. This is where air ambulances come in. Often, the underlying cause of organ failure and the symptoms of the failing organ itself leave a patient in a precarious state. By travelling via an air ambulance that can respond to a patient’s needs, he or she can reach their transplant site safely.   

Medical Tourism

Not all international medical treatment takes place in such dire circumstances under such a pressing medical need. Instead, medical tourists will take the time to shop around for the best deal on a particular kind of treatment. Although no one knows how many medical tourists there really are, it’s estimated that thousands of Americans travel for the most affordable care every year.  
 
Faced with prohibitively high healthcare costs in their home states, medical tourists can often find providers abroad that offer the same quality of healthcare at a much lower cost. Take, for example, the case of Michael Shopenn, who saved over $86,000 by looking overseas for surgery.  
 
Medical tourists often turn some of their savings into a recovery vacation, enjoying tacos in Mexico or beaches in Thailand, while they wait until they are fit to travel again. When it’s time to return home, an air ambulance can help alleviate the risk of blood clots faced by those who travel after surgery. 

Highly trained surgeons, medical equipment and organs can be difficult to find near one’s home. However, thanks to state of the art air ambulances patients can get the care that they need.      

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