Vacation, Adventure And Surgery?
April 24, 2005
Summertime. Itís almost upon us. Millions will be heading out to foreign lands for vacation, adventure, tourism, or just a beautiful beach. But how about hip surgery or a multiple bypass or a facelift?
A growing number of tourists are doing just that: combining holidays with health care. And thatís because a growing number of countries are offering first-rate medical care at third-world prices.
Many of these medical tourists canít afford health care at home; the 40 million uninsured Americans, for example. Others are going for procedures not covered by their insurance: cosmetic surgery, infertility treatment.
And the hospitals in these faraway countries are glad to have these medical tourists. In fact, they are courting their business, trying to get more people to outsource their own health care. Correspondent Bob Simon reports.
But for people needing medical care, itís known
The hospital has state-of-the-art technology, and
hereís the clincher: the price. Treatment here costs about one-eighth what
it does in the
"Itís sort of Ground Zero. I havenít heard anybody
yet whoís told us that they take more than 350,000 international patients
a year," says Curt Schroeder, CEO of Bumrungrad.One patient is Byron
Bonnewell, who lives 12,000 miles away in
"They told me I was gonna die," says Bonnewell, who didn't have insurance.
He estimates he would have had to pay over $100,000 out of his own pocket for the operation he needed, a complicated quintuple bypass. And he says he actually decided not to do it: "I guess I figured I'd rather die with a little bit of money in my pocket than live poor."
But Bonnewell says his health was deteriorating
quickly, when he read about
He made that appointment after he learned that the
bypass would cost him about $12,000. He chose his cardiologist, Dr. Chad
Wanishawad, after reading on the hospitalís Web site that he used to
practice at the National Institutes of Health in
"Every doctor that I saw there has practiced in the
But three days after walking into the hospital, he was on the operating table. Two weeks later, he was home.
How does he feel? "Wonderful. I wish Iíd found them sooner," says Bonnewell. "Because I went through a year Ė I was in bad shape. I couldnít walk across the room."
How was the nursing? How was the treatment?
"I found it so strange in
Thatís what the hospital prides itself on: its first-class medical care, which it can offer so cheaply because everything is cheaper here, particularly labor and malpractice insurance. You can get just about any kind of treatment, from chemotherapy to plastic surgery.
Kim Atwater from
Was she nervous about having an operation done in
"Yes, yes, I was somewhat hesitant about having any
type of operation in a foreign country, and it turned out to be, I mean,
it was beyond my expectations," says
And it was not beyond her budget: $1,500, and that included a private room.
How would she describe the difference between this
place and an American hospital? "It's much nicer than any that Iíve ever
stayed in the
The rooms look more like hotel rooms than hospital rooms, and thatís no accident. The idea was to make the whole hospital look like a hotel and a five-star hotel at that. There are boutiques and restaurants to suit every taste and nationality
"Part of the concept was to create an environment when people came in they didnít feel like theyíre in a hospital," says Schroeder. "Because nobody really wants to go to a hospital."
Bonnewell says he's going back this fall for another checkup. He'll have to take a 22-hour flight, but thereís even an upside to that.
"We do have a very unique relationship with Thai Airways," says Schroeder. "So you can buy a ticket. You can use frequent flier mileage to get your checkup."
Whatever it takes to get your business.
"And this is not the only hospital trying to outsource healthcare, is it?" asks Simon.
"My goodness, no. I, we certainly have not gone
unnoticed," says Schroeder. "There are hospitals throughout
The hospital boom in
The most important player is the Apollo Group, the
largest hospital group in
Why is it so important to get foreign patients here?
"It makes sense to establish
But why should foreigners come here? Well, itís
even cheaper than
Anne Bell works at the British High Commission in
And in the
"Do you find that many Indian doctors are coming back now because of hospitals such as this one?" asks Simon.
"Yes, a large number are coming back," says Bissell. "Because they have something to come back to."
Dr. Praveen Khilnani, a pediatric intensive care
specialist, worked at several American Hospitals, including Mass General.
Dr. Vikas Kohli is a pediatric cardiologist who worked at hospitals in
Both need sophisticated equipment to care for their
"How much less do you make here than in the
"Maybe a tenth or a twentieth of what we were
They wanted to come back, they say, because they
felt their expertise was needed here in
"There are probably 1,500 to 2,000 pediatric
cardiologists in the
Since there are so many Indians who require the kind of care that only they can offer, why is there such a strong drive to attract foreign patients?
"Who doesnít mind extra money flowing in?" says Kohli.
Stephanie Sedlmayr didnít want to spend the tens of
thousands of dollars it would take to get the hip surgery she needed. And
she didnít have insurance, either. So with her daughter by her side, she
"My doctor, actually, in
But she didnít just come here to save money; she came for an operation she couldnít get at home. Itís called hip resurfacing, and it has changed peopleís lives.
It hasnít been approved yet by the FDA, but in
Instead, Bose fits a metal cap over the end, which fits into a metal socket in the hip. The result, he says, is that patients end up with enough mobility to do virtually anything.
"So my patients, you know, play football, basketball, whatever you want. Not a problem," says Bose.
Until the FDA approves it, the only way to have
this operation in the
How much does it cost in the States?
"I believe it costs something from $28,000 to $32,000 U.S. dollars," says Bose.
Sound too good to be true? Don't forget: Itís at
least a 20-hour trip, there is malaria in parts of
And one could only wish you the best of luck. But
Sedlmayr feels sheís already had more luck than she had any right to
expect. By the time 60 Minutes left
"Is this standard, that when somebody gets surgery at the hospital to come to a resort like this afterwards?" asks Simon.
"Yeah, they suggest it. They recommend it," says Sedlmayr. "[It cost] $140 day for myself and my daughter, including an enormous fabulous breakfast that they serve until 10:30."
"I think a lot of people seeing you sitting here and what's usually called post op, and hearing your tales of what the operation was like, are going to start thinking about India," says Simon.
"Yeah, and combining surgery and paradise," says Sedlmayr.
© MMV, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Selected Industry News Items | Home Page | Washington Post, Oct 21, 2004 | The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 26., 2004 | BusinessWeek, Feb. 16, 2004 | The Times of India, Feb. 14, 2004 | India Today, Nov. 24, 2003 | The New york Times, May 18, 2003 | Yahoo! News, Sep. 25, 2005 | TIME Magazine, May 29, 2006 | The State, Feb. 10, 2007 | Wall Street Journal, Mar. 8, 2007 | The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2008 | The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26, 2008 | The New York Times, Mar. 10, 2008 | The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2008