The concept of Medical Tourism (U.S. patients going to India or Thailand to receive ‘better, cheaper’ surgeries in ‘state of the art’ facilities) has served to undermine confidence in our healthcare system. Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko, portrays foreign doctors and medical facilities as vastly superior to those within the United States. But that’s not how I and many other practicing surgeons in South Florida see things: the idea of ‘Reverse Medical Tourism’ has become a growth industry. In 2006, Baptist Hospital of South Florida catered to 12,480 international patients mainly from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. Year-to-date in 2007, they’ve already seen over 14,000 international patients, which puts the hospital on pace to receive more than 20,000 international patients by year’s end. I am blessed to be able to travel abroad often to conduct seminars on the latest orthopedic technologies, tour facilities, and perform training sessions for local surgeons. In recent years, I’ve been seeing an ever increasing amount of foreign patients. At my personal practice in Miami, I saw nearly 600 international patients last year. These patients mainly came from Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and South America, but also from Europe, Mexico, and occasionally other regions. Patients often travel to south Florida for treatment of a wide variety of conditions. As a hand surgeon, I find that local surgeons are frequently not trained in newer advanced surgical techniques. Additionally, many surgical implants are often not even available for doctors to utilize. This leads to the use of archaic surgical procedures, which often result in longer patient recovery times and a myriad of other potential issues. Last month, Cayman Islands resident Barbara Currie Dailey flew to Miami to have surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. She said that her main concern about receiving care in the Caymans was that “there’s no board of medical examiners confirming the qualifications of either private doctors or government hospital staff in Grand Cayman.” After several frightening misdiagnoses and consistently poor healthcare in the past, Mrs. Dailey decided treatment outside of the Cayman Islands was her only option. A few weeks ago, I performed surgery on a patient who flew all the way from Trinidad to be treated. He happened to play for the national soccer team and needed complex tendon transfer surgery to restore function in his hand, critical for playing his position as goaltender! After poor initial management of the injury in Trinidad, he decided that he could not trust the available surgeons, facilities or treatments there. Despite Michael Moore’s highly publicized opposing claims, it seems that, at least in South Florida, foreign patients recognize the quality of care they receive in the U.S. The U.S. community has this romantic notion that foreign medicine is at an excellent level despite some hardship, but often, nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Alejandro Badia is an internationally renowned orthopedic upper limb surgeon. He can be reached at (305) 661-3000 or visit his website at www.drbadia.com.
By Alejandro Badia, MD, FACS Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon Badia Hand to Shoulder Center The concept of Medical Tourism (U.S. patients going to India or Thailand to receive ‘better, cheaper’ surgeries in ‘state of the art’ facilities) has served to undermine confidence in our healthcare system recently illustrated in Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko. But that’s not how I, and many other practicing surgeons in South Florida, see things: the idea of ‘Reverse Medical Tourism’ has become a growth industry. I have built Badia Hand to Shoulder Center with this concept in mind: A full service center that contains digital radiography, MRI imaging, patient education resources and operating rooms all dedicated to serving the international patient with hand and upper limb problems. This high tech facility, coupled with special attention to international patients’ special needs, such as airport transportation and accommodation packages, has allowed us to become the premier referral center for all hand and upper limb problems including carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist trauma and shoulder problems. Patients, referring physicians and allied health industry executives may contact Dr. Badia via his informative website, www.drbadia.com or calling 305 227-HAND
Is Medical Tourism the Cost Effective Alternative to the U.S. Medical Crisis
Sun, Sea, Sand and Surgery could be the future theme of tourism promotions in the Caribbean, as regional governments and private investors focus on exploring the benefits of Medical Tourism.
Miami based Caribbean Trade Center’s Forum “Medical Tourism – The State of Medical Services in the Caribbean Region” was a great success and continues to receive rave reviews from attendees. The event held in collaboration with the Badia Hand to Shoulder Center of Miami Florida was held at the Miami Anatomical Training Center, Doral, Florida, and was sponsored by Doctors Hospital Bahamas.
The Forum featured Divina Grossman – Vice President of Engagement Florida International University; Laura Mare West, Consul General, the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago; Tiffany Thompson, Business Development Consultant – Barbados Tourism Authority; Dr. Alejandro Badia- Founder of the Badia Hand to Shoulder Center and Ortho Now; Barry Rassin, President, Doctors Hospital Nassau, Bahamas, and Nalini Bethel, Senior Promotions Director – Bahamas Tourist Board. The event brought together Country Health and Tourism representatives, Medical Tourism facilitators and other interests who exchanged ideas on some of the most challenging issues of healthcare tourism affecting in the Caribbean and attracted more than 70 attendees.
Caribbean Trade Center, CTC, strives to develop a comprehensive agenda focused on enhancing the economic vitality of the Caribbean region. This important Forum brings together prominent stakeholders and associated partners under one roof. Miami and the Caribbean share a synergistic relationship having strong cultural and social ties and strategic logistical advantages. With its world-class medical facilities and services, the Bahamas is well positioned to play a vital role in facilitating the medical needs of the Caribbean.