by Marlene Warren
In the past five years, three members of my family were referred to medical institutions in the United States. One member required eye surgery at the Lahey Clinic in Peabody, MA. A five week stay at a nearby hotel ensured time for necessary follow-up visits. This individual was accompanied by myself for one week and another sibling for the entire period.
Consider the economic benefit this one medical visit provided the following:
- • Delta Airlines – three return tickets to Boston.
- • The shuttle service from the airport to our hotel in Peabody
- • The hotel – rented a room for five weeks.
- • The hotel restaurant and others in the area
- • Lahey Clinic and doctors
- • Shops at a mall and Walmart
- • An Uber driver
- • The hotel shuttle – a free service, but the driver received tips
Though the medical conditions were different, the experiences of the other two family members would have been very similar in nature. That is an example of medical tourism. Simply put, medical tourism occurs when someone travels to another country for medical treatment.
There are a number of reasons that people leave their own country to seek medical attention elsewhere: Lower cost, Lack of expertise or facilities in their own country, Better quality of care, and Specialized services in other country.
Though not necessarily cost effective, the majority of Bermudians are referred to institutions within the United States for specialized treatments. There are other options: among the top medical tourism destinations are Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, India, and Costa Rica.
According to the Strategic Investment Research Unit (SIRU), “India has gained a reputation in providing high quality medical service at low costs to medical tourists travelling from across the globe…India’s combination of medical and traditional medicine sets the country apart from others.”
Ever Healthcare Blogs reports that Costa Rica is the leading medical tourism centre in Latin America “with over 20,000 visiting medical tourists each year…Modern, clean, and somehow still up to 70% cheaper compared to the U.S., this highly cost-effective medical destination promises to offer stellar service and care.”
What about Bermuda? Is Medical Tourism feasible? Let’s consider some of the reasons people choose to travel to another country for medical treatment.
COST: Quality Health reports that a heart transplant in the US would cost approximately $50,000 USD while in India, the cost in a leading hospital would be the equivalent of $5,000 USD – just one-tenth of the cost. An individual could afford the cost of a return airline ticket, hotel stay, medical treatment and hospital stay and still save money. Consider the cost of your personal medical care in Bermuda- think eye care, dental care, doctor’s visits and hospital services. Add the price of a return airline ticket from any gateway city in the US or Canada, hotel stay for at least a week, transportation and food. What do you think? Would the cost of medical treatment in Bermuda facilitate the establishment of Medical Tourism?
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Keith Archibald Forbes, writing on “Welcome to Bermuda”, states that “Bermuda’s medical facilities are good for a 21-square mile island, but not equipped for very serious conditions, such as heart, stroke, and other conditions. If you require extensive and/ or intensive treatment you will likely be air-lifted elsewhere, usually to good hospitals in the USA.” I would venture to add that the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital has proven even too small for Bermuda’s population. With only one main hospital on the island and a few private clinics, what choice does Bermuda have to offer? Considering the present economic condition in Bermuda, is there any possibility of providing bigger and better medical facilities?
SPECIALIZED SERVICES: According to Clinic Spots, “the healthcare tourism industry in India is doing exceptionally well in the following sectors: oncology treatments, organ transplants, dental procedures, and cosmetics and plastic surgery.” What specialized treatments can Bermuda boast of that would attract thousands from other countries to visit for medical care? One local doctor has suggested plastic surgery. For sure, there would need to be some collaboration among medical personnel to determine the local medical expertise that would put Bermuda on the map of medical tourism destinations.
Any country considering Medical Tourism should also give serious thought to the following:
INSURANCE: Keith Archibald Forbes writing on “Welcome to Bermuda” says, “The annual average spending on health coverage in Bermuda in 2019, by individuals, was more than $11,952, the highest in the world.” The Medical Tourism Magazine reports that in the USA. “UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint and Humana are looking to curb expenses by encouraging their members to receive medical tourism procedures abroad through cross-border plans.” If a medical tourist’s insurance doesn’t cover treatment in another country, will local insurers be prepared to offer insurance coverage to foreigners seeking medical attention in Bermuda? If so, will it be cost effective considering that it is presently the highest in the world?
PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS: Organizations necessary to promote success of Medical Tourism include medical tour companies and the Medical Tourism Association.
A medical tour company coordinates all the services required by the medical tourist. Medical Tours Costa Rica boasts that it “is a medical travel ‘one-stop-shop & concierge centre’…that will centralize the entire continuum of care in Costa Rica and our network of hospitals, hotels, tourism, transportation and more.” Patients rely heavily on such organizations. With Bermuda
being a tourist destination with several tour and planning organizations, adding a medical component to an existing company or establishing a new company devoted to medical tourism should not be too difficult.
Another crucial partner would be the Medical Tourism Association who markets itself as “a global non-profit association for the medical tourism and international patient industry.” The MTA works with healthcare providers, governments, insurance companies, employers, and other buyers of healthcare – in their medical tourism, international patient, and healthcare initiatives – with a focus on providing access to transparent, high-quality healthcare.
You be the judge. Is Medical Tourism feasible for Bermuda?