By: Benjarong

Medical tourism has become a growing trend worldwide as thousands of people travel outside their home country each year to undergo medical procedures abroad.

The reasons for medical travel vary greatly – but most commonly the simple fact is that many Westerners can find cheaper medical care abroad, where often the price of surgery or procedures plus the plane ticket and stay are cheaper than the price of surgery alone at home, and in many cases the quality of medical care found abroad matches the quality of care that can be found in the home country of medical tourists.

Medical travel allows tourists not only to take care of their medical needs but also provides an opportunity to experience a new place, all in one package. More recently, plastic surgery has been a booming market in the medical tourism field, and Southeast Asia is often the place to get it done – tourists from all over Australia and Europe visit countries like Thailand, South Korea, and Malaysia for a breast lift or augmentation, tummy tuck, or nose job, to name just a few of the vast plastic surgery options offered abroad.

Those potentially interested in medical travel may have just one question first, though, and that is: how safe is plastic surgery in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries?

Every now and then a horror story appears on the news about plastic surgery nightmares or medical tourism vacations gone bad, but these stories tend to be highly uncommon experiences compared to the number of people who actually do travel abroad for medical purposes.

Some medical websites that focus on medical tourism estimate that the number of patients leaving the United States alone for medical care in 2011 was as high as 550,000. The reality is that there are a very high number of people traveling across international borders to receive medical care – from necessary, life-saving procedures such as heart surgery, to cosmetic procedures such as blepharoplasty – and there are relatively few risks for doing so.

Many hospitals in Thailand and other Asian countries are highly accredited, and a hospital’s accreditation is the best way to estimate its quality at first glance. For example, the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation is highly respected for accrediting hospitals outside the United States; international hospitals with JCI accreditation can be sure to have some of the highest medical standards abroad. Other accreditation organizations include the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation and the United Kingdom Accreditation Forum (UKAF).

In part due to the many ways to check the trustworthiness, quality, and standards of hospitals abroad, medical tourism is a safe, yet inexpensive option for people who want great medical care and a vacation to boot. Medical tourism may also be the best choice for people who want plastic surgery, as the plastic surgery market in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries is booming. A little bit of research and an open mind could go a long way in helping you find affordable medical or cosmetic care on your next vacation!