Tips on How to Be a Medical Tourist in Europe

You don’t need a study to know that healthcare in the U.S. is expensive. But to put it in perspective, Johns Hopkinspublished a paper comparing U.S. healthcare spending to other developed countries. As you probably imagine, the U.S. is the priciest. Americans spend $9.892 per capita which is 25 percent higher than Switzerland, who came in second place with $7,919 and 108 percent higher than Canada’s $4,753. In a separate report breaking down the cost of healthcare in Europe, Spain’s spending is roughly $2,600 (adjusted from Euros) and France is approximately $4,000. 

Medical tourism is growing in popularity as an alternative way to save on expensive medical treatments in the U.S. It makes perfect sense — if you could spend half or a third of what you’d pay in the U.S. for medical intervention in Europe, why not become a medical tourist? You could save some serious money and have a vacation abroad

Keep in mind that the current restrictions in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic make it difficult for Americans to enter the European Union, but borders could potentially open up in the near future. It’s a great time to research the pros and cons of medical tourism and learn more.

Medical Tourism Benefits

The largest benefit of medical tourism is the savings factor. Even with the weaker dollar and the 20% upcharge in currency exchange, you’re looking at sizable savings in the majority of medical and dental treatments. Here’s a look at cost comparisons:

Dental implants — U.S.: $2,500 vs. Poland: $925

Heart bypass — U.S.: $65,000 vs. Luxembourg: $1110

One hospital night — U.S.: $5.220 vs. Spain: $424

Besides the cost savings, spending time in a favorite European destination while you recover from a surgery or treatment in a place like Paris, Madrid or Rome isn’t bad at all. Recovering on a diet of world-class food is bound to be good for the body and the spirit.

Medical Tourism Challenges

Although the cost of getting treatment overseas while enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower from your window may be all you need to be convinced that medical tourism is the best decision, there are drawbacks you should watch out for. Consider the following points before you book your plane ticket and hotel:

Language Barrier

Depending on the country you choose, the language barrier may make it difficult to effectively communicate with your doctor or medical center. English is generally spoken in many European medical centers, but the fluency level may be limited. It’s best to call ahead and speak with your point of contact to ensure you can understand and communicate effectively.

If you’re worried about the language barrier, consider hiring someone who can serve as a translator. They can serve as your advocate to make sure you’re getting the level of treatment you expect, as well as help you understand your role in the recovery process.

The Plane Ride

Air travel is difficult for even the healthiest traveler. Traveling with pain can make the trip unbearable. Flights to Europe are long-distance flights. Expect to spend at least eight hours in the air, in a cramped space. Depending on the type of medical treatment, the trip home may require extra caution. Speak with your doctor ahead of time of what precautions you need to take, as well as how long you should wait before you fly home. Depending on the medical treatment, you may not be able to fly home for weeks.

If the doctor clears you to fly as a medical tourist, prepare well before you go. Leg vein thrombosis and blood clots are a real threat. Compression socks can be helpful to reduce your chances of blood clots. Choose an aisle seat so you can get up and stretch regularly. And don’t forget to hydrate by drinking plenty of water on the flight. 

Don’t forget to pack your phone charger and buy an adaptor for European wall plugs — your smartphone will be crucial to help you make your way throughout a new and unfamiliar city. 

Prepare for Medical Care Abroad

To make the most of your medical treatments abroad, be sure to allow for plenty of time to recover after the treatment. If you’re excited about your time in Europe, consider doing your sightseeing before your intervention, so you can give yourself time to rest and recover after the medical treatment.

The CDC has medical tourism advice worth checking out. You may not have to worry about counterfeit drugs or subpar hygiene practices in Europe, but there are definitely things you should account for before you book your treatment overseas. Some of the suggestions are:

– Get a written, detailed price quote of what’s included in the cost of the treatment and what items cost extra to avoid any unpleasant suprises.

– Take copies of your medical reports and lab results with you.

– Make a list of your prescription medication including equivalent generic name and manufacturer – the medication you take in the U.S. may have a different name in Europe.

– Get copies of your European medical records, tests and procedures before you leave — your U.S. medical practitioner may want to review them and add them to your medical file.