Medical Tourism-What is that?
Do you know what “medical tourism” is? It is also called “health tourism,” or “medical travel.” It is where people travel to specific destinations, like Thailand, Singapore, or Malaysia, to get medical care, like major operations such as hip or knee replacement, cardiac surgery, dental surgery; or less major operations like cosmetic or plastic surgery. There are over 50 countries offering medical tourism (Wikipedia). The reason for traveling to other countries for these procedures varies. Some come because, in their home country, they would have to wait a long time to get the procedure, like in the UK or Canada. People from the US often come to these places because it is much cheaper, especially if it is a procedure that they have to pay for “out of pocket.”
Tom became a “medical tourist” in January when he went to Bangkok, Thailand, and had eye surgery. This allows him to get rid of his thick glasses. He has worn glasses since second grade. Ten years ago we ( Tom & Barbara) had gone to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok to look into this possibility. At the time Tom was considering having LASIK surgery, but after consultation, the doctor told him that this would not correct his poor vision enough…he would still need to wear glasses. So, it did not make sense to try this type of surgery. The doctor did ask him if he considered having lens-replacement surgery, or cataract surgery, as “we will all get cataracts if we live long enough…” This operation was more complicated and more costly, so we did not decide to do this then.
But ten years later, and ten more years of vision deterioration, made us reconsider it. There also have been advancements in this type of surgery. So we went back to Bangkok, back to Bumrungrad, back to the same doctor from ten years ago, had another complete examination, and decided to have the lens-replacement surgery. This surgery is called IOL surgery, or Intraocular Lens surgery. The process involves the surgeon making a small incision in the side of one eye, removing the old lens and replacing it with a new plastic lens. No stitches are needed. The operation is done with local anesthesia and the patient is awake throughout the procedure. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete for each eye.
“Medical tourism” is big business. Bumrungrad is a huge facility. It almost does not seem like a hospital as it is geared to handle “medical tourists,” not just patients. It has a huge lobby resembling a classy hotel. It has its own “in-house” McDonalds and Starbucks, and even has a whole building of hotel accommodations for people who want to stay right at the hospital. We saw people from all over Asia and the world there. It is estimated that in 2005, about 55,000 Americans came to Bumrungrad. One patient had coronary artery by-pass that cost $12,000 there, as opposed to $100,000 he estimated it would cost in the US (Wikipedia).
Barbara came along as Tom’s nurse. She helped him through the recovery period. We were in Bangkok for two weeks, as the initial eye exam was done on Tuesday, the first surgery on the left eye scheduled and done on Wednesday, followup exam on Thursday, and then the right eye was done the following Monday, with followup check-ups on Tuesday and Friday. We flew back to China the next Tuesday. We were fortunate to have a long break from Christmas through almost the end of January, so we had time to carry out this process.
The whole process went very smoothly, and we actually relaxed in our hotel room, or by the pool, had great Thai food, watched many movies, which Tom could see now without glasses. He does need to wear glasses to read, but his regular vision is much improved. His doctor did tell Tom, that he did, in fact, have cataracts, so his insurance may cover the procedure, which it did. So the experience was very positive. We would recommend Bumrungrad to other people; they do a fantastic job there. The “eyes” have it!