CBS news on the cons of medical tourism

CBS published a refreshing take on medical tourism – an article reviewing the pros and cons of traveling for medical care along with an interview with an American orthopedic surgeon,  Dr. Claudette Lajam from New York University Langone Medical Center.

Video interview with Orthopedic Surgeon

While Dr. Lajam pretty much rejects any form of medical tourism – she made some excellent points in her interview.  In the discussion, she stressed the need for facility AND provider verification.  She also talked about the need for people to know specifics – and gives one of my favorite examples, “American trained”.

“American trained

As she points out in the interview, this is a loose term that can be applied (accurately) to a Stanford educated surgeon like Dr. Juan Pablo Umana in Bogotá  or in a more deceptive fashion to one of the many surgeons who have taken a short course, or attended a teaching conference within the United States. A three-day class doesn’t really equate, now does it?

The discussion (and the article) then turned to the need to ‘research’ providers.. Now, if only CBS news had talked to me..   That would have made for a more balanced, detailed and informative show for watchers/ readers.

(Telling people to ‘research’ their medical providers falls a bit short.  Showing people how – or providing them with resources would be more helpful.)

“Off-label medical travel”

In addition, the print article should have gone a bit further in discussing the pros and potential consequences/ harmful effects of traveling for ‘off-label’ treatments instead of merely quoting one patient.  Since the area of harm is actually far greater in this subsegment of the medical tourism population due to the amount of quackery as well as the sometimes fragile state of these potential patients  – a bit more discussion or even a separate segment on “off-label medical travel” would have been an excellent accompaniment.

Speaking of which, several weeks ago, I interviewed with NPR (National Public Radio) as part of a segment on medical tourism.  During that discussion we talked about all of the pluses and minuses mentioned on the CBS segment as well as the “Selling Hope” aspect of ‘off-label medical travel” and the potential harms of this practice, as well as some of the issues involved in transplant tourism.  I am not sure how much of my interview, Andrew Fishman, the producer for the segment, will use – or when it will air, but I’ll keep readers informed.

The dangers of Medical Tourism

A new press release from a law office in the United States – highlights the importance of what I do – and why I think it is a necessary and essential endeavor.  The author, James Goldberg has also written a book about the potential dangers of medical tourism due to a lack of regulation among brokers who are just looking for the cheapest providers (for higher profit margins).  As we all know – that’s not the right way to chose a surgeon (and it’s not fair to consumers who trust brokers to deliver high quality care.)

I just ordered it – so I’ll give a full ‘book report’ once it arrives.

Unfortunately, the more I continue on in my efforts to provide unbiased and object reviews, the more I become disheartened by the lack of interest on the part of the medical tourism industry itself.  For the most part, these travel agencies are just that – and hold themselves to no higher ethical or moral standards that the travel agencies of old – except now we are talking about more than missed flights or less than stellar hotel rooms.

The response from the surgeons themselves has been (for the most part) enthusiastic about being reviewed, but until consumers hold the vendors of these services to a higher standard – it will never happen on any sort of global scale.

For the time being – it looks like it’s just me – and my dwindling retirement fund.