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Posts Tagged ‘Medical care’

Medical tourism: Traveling to go under the knife

How far would you go to cut through the red tape, high prices, and long waits to have the surgery you need or want? Many people are traveling farther from home and venturing to other countries — it’s even become part of the tourism industry.

Medical tourism is the practice of traveling across international borders to obtain some type of health care. It’s most commonly used for elective procedures, such as cosmetic surgery, or complex specialized operations, such as cardiac surgery or joint replacement.

The process for having a medical procedure abroad starts with finding a medical tourism provider and presenting them with a medical report, which includes a full health history and a local doctor’s diagnosis. Next, the patient has a consultation with the medical tourism provider’s certified doctor. They’ll discuss where the procedure will take place, the duration of the stay needed, and the approximate expenditure.

After that, the patient signs consent forms and applies for a medical visa for the country where the procedure will take place. Once in country, the medical tourism provider assigns the patient a case executive, who is responsible for overseeing treatment and care.

The medical tourism trend is on the rise, and while I’m by no means a medical expert, I wanted to share my insight about how this trend is impacting the travel industry.

Why are patients turning to medical tourism? Long wait times and high health care costs in first-world countries are among the reasons cited. Compared to the United States or Western Europe, the cost of surgery in places like India and Thailand can be one-tenth the price, with hospital stays and rehabilitation included.

The biggest concern with medical tourism is that the level of care and accreditation varies greatly across the globe. Because of the rapid growth of the industry, little has been done to ensure that health care tourism providers maintain a high level of care and meet safety standards. For example, you might run into health care providers oversees who practice outside of their area of expertise, or utilize student volunteers and trainees in place of licensed medical professionals.

Another factor to consider is if something goes wrong abroad, it might not be covered by insurance. Medical malpractice litigation doesn’t protect patients in many foreign countries as it does in the states, so patients can be left with tricky legal issues. Additionally, if a patient is actually awarded malpractice financial damages, there is the chance that the doctor or hospital will not have appropriate insurance and are therefore unable to pay the compensation.

Ethical issues have also plagued the medical tourism industry, such as the illegal purchasing of organs and tissues, and the growing concern that the quality of care for local patients will decline as local doctors focus efforts on foreigners.

Despite the risks, medical tourism is growing, and is set to become a $100 billion industry this year. If you’re considering medical tourism, the first and most important step is to be informed. Learn all you can about the country to which you’ll travel, its laws, and the medical facility where your procedure will take place. Be sure the facility and doctor you choose is accredited according to U.S. standards. You’re your best advocate, so make sure to be an informed medical tourist.

Would you ever travel internationally for a medical procedure? Should the industry be regulated or left to the patient’s discretion? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section.

The 5 most annoying airline passengers

I was listening to NPR the other day and they had on Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, authors of the new book, “Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us.” The book looks at why certain actions annoy us.

It got me thinking. There are a lot of things that annoy me about flying — including fellow passengers. Unless you’re flying with a big group of friends, going on an airplane puts you in close quarters with complete strangers. And you don’t always get the best seatmate.

After being a frequent flyer for over 30 years, I’ve identified the five most annoying passenger types to sit next to on a flight. They are:

1. The person who decides to make you a best friend by talking to you all night. Sorry chatty Cathy, I use flights to catch up on work or relax by watching the in-flight entertainment or reading a good book. Small talk is fine, but spare me your unedited life story.

2. The person who is drinking too much and making you nervous. Drinking is for the bar, not the airplane. It’s actually much better for you to drink plenty of water while flying and keep the alcohol to a serious minimum. Sure, some people need a drink to relax their nerves on a flight. That’s fine. But when you can’t control your alcohol intake and you start getting sloppy, you’re only embarrassing yourself and making people around you feel very uncomfortable.

3. The person who makes you get out of your aisle seat all night to go to the bathroom. If you know you’re the type of person who needs to use the restroom a lot, just book an aisle seat. If you book early enough, you should be able to snag that sought-after spot. I don’t mind getting up a few times if I’m in the aisle seat, but if I’m trying to sleep or eat a meal, having to get up and down every time you need to use the restroom is anything but convenient.

4. The person using a computer in the aisle seat, who resents having to move when you need to go to the bathroom. This doesn’t contradict #3, and here’s why. I know I will eventually have to use the restroom if I am seated in a window or middle seat. I even try to go the same time as someone else in my row, just so that person won’t have to get up twice. So it really annoys me when the person in the aisle seat gives me the evil eye when having to pick up electronic equipment to get up. If you buy an aisle seat, expect to have to get up every now and then.

5. The person who has a cold (or allergies) and sneezes and coughs all over you during the flight. I know you can’t help getting sick before a flight, but take medication before you fly or, if possible, cancel your flight all together if you’re really sick. Travel insurance protects your investment in your ticket as long as you can verify your illness with a doctor’s note. Just remember that your germs are entering the plane’s air circulation with every cough or sneeze, putting not only me, but every other passenger, at risk of getting your illness too.

So, how do I handle myself if I have to tolerate any of these troubling passenger types? I do my best to use charm, sympathy, and a big smile to get a little relief. The chatty person will leave you alone if you just say, clearly and sweetly, “That’s so interesting. Thanks for sharing,” and promptly return to your book.

For the frequent bathroom visitor, you could offer to switch seats, as even a middle seat might be less bothersome than having to get up frequently from your aisle seat. The same strategy can work in reverse for the person using the computer in the aisle seat, and if not, you’ll definitely have conveyed the message to your seatmate. Hopefully, they will understand and respond with a bit more patience.

The person who’s drinking too much is much harder to control, but you can speak privately to a flight attendant and see if a different seat can be found for you. Flight attendants might not be aware of the amount your seatmate has had to drink, and your report will put them on alert to avoid serving more.

The only troubling traveler for whom I have no strategy is the one who is sick, sneezing, and coughing all over the place. Even if that person is flying in another cabin, there’s a good chance those germs are circulating throughout the plane, through the air and all over the surfaces in the bathrooms.

Your only true weapon is to take good care of yourself, drink plenty of water while you fly, and wash your hands as much as possible (or use hand sanitizers). That’s really the best you can do. Personally, I travel with cold medications in my carry-on. So if I do get sick, I can at least treat the symptoms that could ruin my trip once I arrive at my destination.

What type of passengers annoy you on a flight? Tell me about it on a comment on this post. In addition, let me know how you deal with handling annoying passengers on a flight.

How to stay healthy while traveling

In this past weekend’s New York Times Travel sectionMichele Higgins covered “How Not to Get Sick From a Flight.” While there’s some handy advice in it, some of the measures air travelers take are extreme.

I agree with Michelle that frequent hand washing is the best way to take care of germs that might make you sick. But you’ve heard me tell you this before, and why it’s important to buy travel insurance in the event you get sick when traveling.

However, the excessive attention paid to trying to make our environment as germ-free as possible has, in my opinion, made us incapable of fighting germs the way we were meant to — using our body’s natural defenses.

I like to believe I’m not germaphobic. I don’t use hand sanitizers, except when I know I can’t get to water and soap. And did you know that hand sanitizers can’t kill the number one thing that most people catch – the cold. I’ve also concluded from personal experience that products such as Airborne appear to be ineffective.

Despite traveling frequently, particularly by air, I almost never get sick with anything but a cold, which can’t be avoided if someone on the flight has one. And those nasty cold germs don’t even need to come from your seat mate. Someone sitting in another cabin who is hacking and coughing can make you sick.

After 30 years of being a frequent flier, I’m still healthy. So here are some normal precautions I take when I travel by air:

  • I wipe off the tray table before using it. 
  • When I wash my hands in any public space, I use the paper towel (after drying my hands) to open the door. 
  • I use the protective paper seat covers before using the commode. 
  • I try not to touch the hand rails on the moving sidewalks or escalators inside the airport.

You can buy all the health items described in Michelle’s article that are marketed to make you feel germ-free when traveling by air. But it’s like buying expensive facial creams. You know you’re paying a fortune for something that probably works about as well as mayonnaise. On the off chance the expensive cream might actually work, you pay the money anyway. You do it on the basis of a promise of some potential benefit, and in my opinion, the same is true for many of these products.

That said, it is possible some of these products might be helpful. Not having completed my own advanced degree in microbiology, I can only attest to my general knowledge and experience, but I wouldn’t go to a tremendous amount of trouble to stock up on all of that precautionary stuff. I would just remember to wash my hands a lot. What are some steps you take to avoid getting sick when traveling? Tell me about it in a comment.

10 things to know before you book a cruise

Cruises have been in the news lately for power failures and enduring rough seas. Unfortunately, negative stories like these can perpetuate the misconception that they’re commonplace.

But these situations aren’t the norm for cruises. The odds of a power failure or a rogue wave are very small.

Approximately 10 million passengers board a cruise ship in the U.S. every year. They’re one of the safest ways to enjoy a trip.

However, if you want to make sure your ship is up to tip-top standards, know what to do in an emergency, or how to make your trip more enjoyable, here are 10 things to know before you book a cruise.

Check your cruise ship’s inspection results. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) assists the cruise ship industry to prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships. Every report they produce is documented. Look up your cruise ship to see how it fared on its most recent inspection.

Wash your hands frequently. This is one of the first lessons we learn when we’re younger and it still rings true today. Washing your hands throughly is the easiest way to avoid exposing yourself to germs and illnesses. Wash them often, but especially before you eat and after you use the restroom.

Seek medical attention if you’re sick. Even if you have the sniffles, go to the ship’s medical facility and follow their instructions. In any case, you don’t want to risk spreading your illness around to other passengers. So play it safe and seek medical attention as soon as you start to feel ill.

Check for cleanliness. Whether you’re on the ship or at port, look for inspection stickers where you’re eating. Or take a look around and just see if the place looks clean. Your impression will be a good indication whether or not the food you’re about to eat was prepared in a sanitary setting. Think of it this way. If they’re allowing the public parts of the restaurant to look messy or dirty, just imagine what the parts you can’t see (like the kitchen) look like.

Make copies of your important travel documents. You should bring copies of your driver’s license, passport, credit card, debit card, and any other travel document necessary and keep them in your cabin’s safe. If anything happens on the trip or to your original documents, you will have all the information you need safely tucked away. Having copies of your original documents will also speed up the process of getting you new documents.

Carry a flashlight. Always bring a small flashlight with a replacement bulb and battery. You never know when the power is going to go out (no matter the reason). Having the flashlight can be a lifesaver. For all sorts of security and safety issues, this is a piece of equipment worth buying and keeping with you.

Know your exits. Every cabin has emergency exit information published in each room. No one ever reads it, but every traveler should! In addition to reading it, travelers should actually go to the exit, open the door, and see where it leads. By taking a practice run, you’ll gain an important piece of information in case of a fire or other emergency. And when your captain calls for a lifeboat drill, be sure to participate. Don’t stay in your cabin and think that you’ll figure it out when the time comes. Knowing how to exit your cabin in the event you need to is an invaluable piece of information for every traveler. It can mean the difference between a good and a bad outcome in an emergency.

Pack a power strip or surge protector. Each cabin has only one electrical outlet, which is located right next to the desk or vanity. And it has only two plugs. If you want to use your computer, charge your camera, listen to music, and use a hair dryer while someone is taking a shower, you’ll need more outlets. A power strip or a surge protector will give you the extra electricity you need.

Put fabric softener sheets between your garments in your suitcase. If your travel time to the ship is more than 24 hours, this will help keep everything in your suit case smelling fresh. This is particularly nice with garments or accessories that are not regularly laundered, such as sweaters or jackets. You can cut a sheet in half and place each half in your shoes.

Bring bungee cords. They are easy to pack, take up virtually no room at all, and can even be useful in keeping your bags lashed together as you maneuver onto the ship. Just hang the bungee cord from any suitable place and you have a sturdy hook. They also make a great clothesline when you string it across the opening of your shower, or between a couple of towel bars. Lastly, use one to strap down your towel if you’re up on the deck when the ship is underway.

Is there any thing I missed that you think could make a cruise more enjoyable? Let me know in a comment on this post. Happy cruising!

What vaccinations do you need before traveling?

Before you jet off to a foreign country, you should find out whether or not you need any vaccinations. Obviously the last thing you want is to get sick while you’re on vacation, or worse, catch a serious illness.

The quickest way to find out what vaccinations you’ll need is to look up what country you’re visiting on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. There you’ll find updated information for every country in the world.

Assuming that you’ve booked your trip through a reliable travel agency, you can expect your reservationist to provide you with this information before crossing borders. Friendly Planet Travel provides this information to all of our travelers. However the CDC’s website is also a good resource to hit if you want to get the information before you book.

And I’ll add a few tips of my own to help you make sure you stay in tip-top health while you’re on vacation. First, check with your personal physician to find out if you’ve had vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, or hepatitis B. All travelers should have these vaccines no matter where they are traveling, including within the U.S.

These diseases can be contracted anywhere and can make you very sick. The good news is that they’re easily preventable with their vaccines, which you’ve probably already received if you’ve had routine vaccinations throughout your life. If you need additional vaccinations, be sure to get them in time for your trip, and definitely check with your health insurance carrier to determine if your expense in getting your vaccinations is covered.

Personally, I recommend going one step further and asking your doctor to refer you to a travel medicine specialist or you can locate a travel medicine clinic near you. A travel doctor will know precisely what vaccinations you need.

An added benefit of a travel medicine specialists is that they have knowledge about specific areas of countries and how you should vaccinate according to your itinerary. For instance, it’s generally recommended that if you’re traveling to India you should take malaria prevention medicines. However if you’re only visiting Deli, Agra, and Jaipur, you most likely don’t need it. This medicine can have some side effects. You only want to take it if absolutely necessary.

When in doubt, definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to vaccinations before you travel. Feel free to write to me if you have any questions or leave a comment on this post.

Travel insurance: Your answer to getting medical care when abroad

Most people think of travel insurance as a safety net if they need to cancel their trip. If an unexpected sickness, injury, or some other emergency occurs, travel insurance is there to cover the costs. The more you travel, the more likely it is that an illness could affect a trip before you leave or while you’re traveling.

It happened to me. I was bedridden with a stomach bug in between two trips. There was no way I could get on a plane. But I bought travel insurance, which is something I always do. I provided the travel insurance company with a note from my doctor, and they reimbursed me for the cost of the trip.

But what happens when you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, and you get a stomach bug, sprain your ankle, or some other malady? How will you find a reputable doctor or hospital? Will your health insurance cover you? Will your travel insurance cover you? Will you be out-of-pocket?

It’s enough to make you want to stay home. Fear not! The solution is, in all cases, travel insurance. The travel insurance policy Friendly Planet recommends covers up to $25,000 in medical costs and another $25,000 in emergency medical evacuation.

When you’re outside the country and there is a medical emergency, simply call the underwriter, Travel Guard. They will give you the guidance you need and ensure your needs are covered. The Travel Guard service is online 24/7. And as you might expect, they even have a translator available to ensure accurate communication between you and the doctor or hospital.

Beyond medical attention, there are other things you want your travel insurance to cover. For example, prescription eyeglass replacement, prescription drug replacement, relaying information to family members, making travel arrangements for visitors to the bedside of the hospitalized, and a lot more.

A friend of a friend was at Disney World with his family. It was a hot summer day, and he was perspiring. His five-year-old son had just stepped off the merry-go-round. As he bent over to scoup him up in his arms, his glasses slid off his sweaty face, hit the ground, chipped, and cracked.

Worse, he’s extremely nearsighted. He spent the rest of his vacation with a broken lens that not only impaired his vision, but looked funny. If he had travel insurance, he would have quickly been seeing things clearly again.

While travel insurance protects you, be prepared to pay for treatment at the time of service. Make sure you get a receipt and a copy of the bill. Store them in a safe place. Better yet, take photographs of them with your smart phone or camera. If your smart phone supports e-mail, send the pictures to yourself.

Now, no matter what, you’ll be sure to have copies of the bills and receipts. You’ll need them to be reimbursed when you get back to the U.S. Even then, if you’re hospitalized and the cost is beyond your means to pay, there’s a fail-safe. Travel Guard will handle the billing for you.

The best part is, in addition to the peace of mind, the insurance cost is minimal. It runs between $99-$159 per person, depending upon your total trip cost. Tell us you want it, and we simply add it to your Friendly Planet invoice.

It’s important to note that you must sign up for travel insurance before you make your final payment to Friendly Planet. Even more important, note that pre-existing conditions are ONLY covered if you sign up for the insurance within seven days of making your reservation or deposit.

Even if you’re not traveling with Friendly Planet, you can still get travel insurance. Just hit Google and search for “travel insurance.” Plenty of companies, mostly tour operators, will appear. Here’s a consumer tip: If you buy the travel insurance from your tour operator, you’ll save money on the premium.

I can’t say this clearly or strongly enough: Travel insurance is something you should absolutely sign up for in hopes that you’ll never have to use it. And the odds are, you probably won’t have to use it. But it’s important to have this blanket of protection should something unexpected happen. From my own personal experience, I can tell you, it will pay for itself.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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