The process of deciding where to go for medical treatments abroad can be a challenging task, particularly for first time medical travelers.
Because of the complexity of this decision-making process, some medical travelers seek help from medical facilitators or medical tourism travel agents to coordinate their medical travel programs. These agencies act as your intermediaries with foreign-based hospitals, clinics, surgeons, hotels, airlines and recovery facilities.
The Types of Medical Tourism Intermediaries
Medical facilitators and medical tourism travel agents can be divided into 3 groups:
- Medical Travel Planners:
These organizations serve as the patient's representative in finding a medical provider abroad.
- Travel Agencies:
These agencies offer travel tour plans for medical travelers based on their experience in organizing travel logistics.
- Provider Groups:
These foreign medical providers have tie-ups with international and US-based medical facilities and are dedicated to medical travelers.
Advantages of Using a Medical Travel Agent
Medical tourism travel agents can act as guides for medical travelers. Many medical travelers find it convenient to seek help from facilitators and agencies rather than venturing out on their own.
Some of the advantages gained by using the services of these agencies are listed below:
- General Information:
Medical tourism facilitators have adequate experience in the healthcare tourism process and can address all concerns and questions that the ‘would be’ medical travelers may have, including: safety, insurance, accommodation, etc.
- Familiarity with the Medical Centers:
Medical tourism agencies are familiar with the medical facilities and providers they are working with. They are well informed about the medical provider's certifications, type of facilities and other factors critical in choosing the medical center. These companies take the necessary precautions to ensure that the doctors and physicians performing the medical procedures are properly trained and certified.
Medical intermediaries can provide assistance with logistics, documentations, permits and other travel arrangements required for medical tourism. These include arrangements for hotel, transportation and accommodation, and if necessary could also include aftercare facilities.
Some medical intermediaries offer all-in-one medical tourism packages where patients can benefit from lower rates as compared to getting the services on their own.
Medical intermediaries also provide assistance to medical travelers in obtaining finance for medical tourism.
Disadvantages of Working with a Medical Travel Agency
Although using the services of medical tourism travel agencies may be the easiest way of traveling abroad for medical tourism, there are certain disadvantages as well, these include:
- Limited Choice:
Medical tourism intermediaries usually partner with only a few medical providers in certain destination countries.
The medical providers offered to you may not be the best provider for your needs, and are offered only because of business arrangements between the travel agencies and the provider.
There may be instances where the medical tourism packages offered by travel agencies, may be priced higher than obtaining the package directly from the providers. This is due to the mark-ups added by these medical intermediaries.
Consider Your Options
There are a large number of medical tourism intermediaries and travel agencies offering services for medical travelers. Some are based in the United States or Europe, while others reside in the destination country.
A would-be medical traveler should weigh the pros and cons of obtaining the services of these travel agencies, as opposed to choosing a medical tourism provider on their own.