Broad strokes of “unsafe” are being painted on the quality of medical surgery performed outside of one’s own home country (without stating which home country that is) by ISAPS (International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons).
The whole theme of “it’s unsafe anywhere but home” is odd, since the membership of the ISAPS is comprised of plastic surgeons from many countries.
Their recent press release “Patients Have a Right to Safe Surgery” alludes to all medical tourism being unsafe. They quote a “U.S. study referred to in an article in the August issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Complications from International Surgery Tourism”.
I realize a press release is not the place for “full disclosure”, so I’ve initiated contact with an executive at ISAPS to ask for a phone interview, but haven’t heard back just yet. I have heard back from some subject experts who question the motivation of ISAPS and their conclusion.
Here are a few comments from researchers and subject experts who read the article and have questions about the supporting evidence quoted in the article, and about the motivation for the article: .
Says an academic, “I traced the reference back to the source listing, and this full “article” is only four pages long. That doesn’t constitute a researched article – that hardly is enough space to discuss methodology. Also, I see there is a two page commentary on the report immediately following that; that to me tells me the Journal saw it as an “unsettled” piece to begin with.
Speaking with the author of the commentary might be more insightful than the PR spin that is going to come from ISAPS, as they have already pronounced their position in the press release.
It would be interesting too, if the article mentioned who reviewed it for publication (a few do, most don’t), to talk with them to see if they felt the conclusions being drawn are accurate.”
A medical tourism facilitator and T4H member says, “The survey polled 2,000 members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) about their experience with medical tourism patients. More than 80 percent of the 368 respondents said they had treated patients who had traveled abroad for cosmetic procedures. That is 288 respondents. That also means that 1712 didn’t think it was important to respond”.
Here is the comment of an attendee of a recent medical tourism conference. “The ISAPC provided a scare-filled, biased presentation at the conference, so this is a tactic for them that is at least 4 years old. The AMA spoke there too, and was quite balanced, but ISAPC showed horror pictures (as if nothing like this ever happens in the US)”.
A medical professional and author of several books on medical travel is quoted as saying, “I have seen a couple of these promotional ads dinging plastic surgery but I have also seen some articles in the LA times and the NYC paper that are thinly veiled ads as well – but under the bylines of real reporters. I wish I could remember the names or dates – but that’s why I was surprised to see this promotion linked to the Sacramento Bee, along with some other negative articles during my Pubmed search”.
I tend to think (and it’s only my opinion) that a lot of it is focused on India because the British press has printed several critical articles about people going to India – and I think they see India as their biggest threat.
I read somewhere that India is poised to bring in 2.3 billion in medical tourism revenues in 2012.
I think plastic surgery is hurting more than other specialties since it is elective, and the economy is bad – also in recent years – American surgeons have had to reduce their fees in an attempt to compete with overseas sources. Sinceit’s elective people can shop around.
Also many plastic surgery patients tend to be younger, (more internet sophistication) and less fear of exotic locales to some extent. I mean, everyone on reality TV is going to Mexico for plastic surgery it seems.
To me the article screams bitter grapes – but I also think the screams are getting louder and louder – and at some point, others will take it up.. (The AMA always protects its own.)”
Says a T4H member experienced in medical travel, “I have to question the motivation of a company who highlights a problem but only offers, as a solution, their own product, (i.e., the ISAPS’s pitch for their insurance product in the same press release).”
All good observations and suggestions from people qualified to have an opinion on the subject of health travel.
Watch for more in-depth follow-up articles soon to come on www.traveling4health.com and http://medicaltourism.escapeartist.com/
Safe Medical Tourism – Is there cause for alarm?
Patients should be cautioned to do their homework when traveling for body plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery – or any kind of surgery abroad where the health care system will be different than in their home country.
“Not all doctors finished first in their class,” is a fair motto to remember when choosing a surgeon whether at home or abroad”
Professional organizations, insurance companies, and medical tourism companies can do a lot of the vetting for you. But then it is still up to you to research the company or organization doing the referring. Gone are the days when competing companies and organizations can each parade themselves as the ultimate “Worldwide”authority.
And gone are the days when one country’s medical professionals can believably naysay all medical travel based on quality concerns.
Overseas Plastic Surgery – What are the Safeguards?
The problem, as stated in the article:
“We see travel agencies brokering surgery for their clients with surgeons they have never met. The patients have no assurance that their surgeon is properly trained or qualified to perform the procedure they will undergo, and all too often little attention is paid to post-surgical care,” says Catherine Foss, Executive Director of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
I agree. Patients need to know how to choose a medical travel company to reduce any risk of medical travel. A chapter in our book “How to Plan A Successful Medical Tourism Trip” is dedicated to explaining the two medical tourism company business models, and what a patient can expect from each. This is the only book written on medical travel that explains the distinction.
Often the best medical tourism or medical travel companies limit their own geographic and medical specialty reach to ensure that they can control a patient’s experience within their own vetted network.
A company has a more believable claim to cornering the market on “good doctors” if their claim is confined in geographic scope or medical specialty rather than a “worldwide all inclusive” scope. Why? Because the broader your scope, the more likely you become a “Jack of all trades, master of none”.
Here are books I can recommend on health travel:
How to Plan A Successful Medical Tourism Trip. A consumer’s guide to understanding medical travel. This is the only medical tourism or travel for treatment book written with 12 leading experts in medical and dental tourism.
A series of books authored by Kristin Eckland, ACNP, for example: Bogota!: a Hidden Gem guide to surgical tourism in Bogota, Colombia.
About the author: Ilene Little is CEO of Traveling4Health.com. She is a reporter in the medical tourism business, and she does all of the content for the EscapeArtist Medical Tourism Blog.