Medical tourism: worth the risk?

Dental and medical tourism is on the rise. Little wonder, considering the cost of health insurance, GP and dentists’ fees in Australia is skyrocketing. But is a ‘cheap health holiday’ worth the risk?

Australian dentists certainly don’t think so, recently issuing a warning about the risks involved with medical or dental tourism.

These ‘tourists’ travel overseas in search of cheap medical procedures or dental treatment. And while it may be less expensive to get work done on your chompers in Chiang Mai or a boob job in Bali, some complex procedures require ongoing follow up visits.

Add to that the risk of complications that may need corrective action and the money saved on ‘cheap health holidays’ could end up costing you more than you save, not to mention other possible drawbacks, such as:

Too many procedures, too little time
Some treatments need to be conducted across a number of visits over time. Trying to squeeze several operations into a short timeframe means you’re at risk of other complications, even if the work is performed to an acceptable standard.

What if things go wrong?
If you’ve had corrective dental work overseas and you have to return to have something fixed, any savings gained from that first ‘cheap flight’ ticket are likely to be lost. Also, an Australian qualified dentist who has to see to any problems in the meantime may charge you extra to attend to the dental issue caused by another practitioner.

Standards may not be as stringent
Australian dentists operate at a very high standard. They must be registered and work in a strictly-regulated environment. However, not all countries have these same requirements. And even if overseas dentists are as qualified as their Australian counterparts, they may not be working with the same quality of materials as those used here.

Infection and antibiotic resistance
‘Superbugs’ may not be such an issue in Australian practices, but they are becoming more common as patients return from treatment in overseas hospitals and clinics.

As concluded by Australian Dental Association (ADA) Deputy Chairman of the Oral Health Committee, Dr Michael Foley: “Complex procedures – medical or dental – should not be done over the course of a holiday. If you have the need for a complex medical treatment or procedure, it is best done in Australia where you can be assured of the safety and quality standards in place, and of the certainty of follow up.

“Don’t risk the ‘cheap health holiday away’ only to have a ‘big health bill’ after you come back”.

Have you ever considered medical or dental tourism? Do you think the potential savings outweigh the risks?

Related articles:
Affordable dental care
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Is Australia’s health system failing?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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