Researchers at Simon Fraser University
’s medical tourism research group have come up with some simple medical tourism guidelines for Canadians.
A one-page information sheet
for prospective Canadian medical tourists outlines several key points to consider, from unforeseen costs and procedure risks to contracting diseases and patient rights. A Canadian Institute of Health Research grant supported the work.
Professor Jeremy Snyder and his colleagues have spent two years talking to those in the industry around the globe, doctors and former patients to examine the pros and cons.
Professor Snyder explains, “It can be hard to gauge what the quality of care abroad is like, in some cases fantastic care, but the regulatory systems might be different or they just might have trouble telling. It can be difficult to make sure you have continuity of care. So, if you are getting dental implants in Mexico, there might be linguistic barriers, when you are bringing medical records back home or your local dentist might not be able to get access to those records.”
The group also points out that there can be consequences for people living in the destination country. Professor Snyder explains, “Canadians are not aware of the potential for negative impacts for the people in the countries that are welcoming medical tourists. Medical resources are going into private care for foreigners. Potentially it is a good thing because it brings in revenue. Medical tourism might direct resources away from low-income settings or redirect health personnel into the private system and away from the public system”
Snyder warns of the risks of infectious disease or unforeseen costs, but also beleives that most Canadians return healthy after experiencing treatment that is a lot faster and less expensive than at home, “We have talked to many Canadians who have gone abroad for care for a variety of reasons and most people are happy with how things turned out. But some return home requiring expensive on-going treatment that burdens people in Canada waiting in queue. We want to educate people about these concerns.”
For Canadians going overseas the most popular procedures include hip, cosmetic, reproductive and dental surgery, as well as experimental treatments for multiple sclerosis and cancer. Many travel to Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe each year and the researchers expect numbers to increase.
Snyder and colleagues undertook a study published earlier this year looking at the legal implications of the risks of medical tourism for patients, which pointed to concerns over unintended and undesired effects on patients’ home healthcare systems. In 2011 a focus group found concerns ranged from surgery and treatment complications to uninformed decision-making.