It is crucial that you thoroughly check out any hospital or clinic in another country before you commit to medical treatment abroad. This is not only to ensure your safety, but also to give you peace of mind that you are in good hands.
However, few people can afford the expense of touring around different countries to check them out in person. So how do you go about looking into a foreign hospital or clinic while you are still in the UK, and who can you turn to for unbiased advice and information?
Visit the clinic website
The first place to start is to see what the clinic has to say about themselves on their website or in their printed brochures. This will give you a wide range of information about the clinic, its facilities and its staff. It should also tell you about any association memberships or accreditations that they hold, as well as any awards they have won or been nominated for.
Of course, you should never take this information at face value, and you should always look for proof or independently verify any claims that they make.
Talk to the clinic
If there is any information that you need that is not on the website or in the brochures, simply ask the clinic directly. They are used to clients asking questions and should be happy to help you out. Once again, you must not simply believe everything they say, and should ask them to provide independent evidence or verification wherever possible.
Ask for testimonials
Of course, a clinic will only show you the good reviews, but the more of these they have, the more confident you can be in their standards and service. If you have any doubts over the authenticity of what you are shown, ask if you can talk to former patients directly to get their opinion. You can also visit sites such as Medical Tourism Reviews to gain the view of other patients.
Ask the national health department
In most countries clinics and hospitals need to be registered with the national health authority or department of health in order to practice. Often this will include regular inspections to check that the clinic is up to scratch. Most of these organisations have a searchable online database for you to verify the registration of the clinic and view inspection reports; however this may not be the case in all countries.
Check with national and international associations
All reputable surgeons and consultants will also be members of national and international associations. In the UK, this includes bodies such as the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Medical Association. Some are voluntary, while membership of others is a pre-condition for practising in that country. Check online which organisations operate in your chosen country, and contact those organisations to check out your surgeon or consultant.
There are also a number of associations that set international standards, often specifically aimed at reassuring the healthcare tourist market, such as the International Association of Plastic Surgeons.
Surgeons and consultants may also be members of associations here in the UK and in the United States if that is where they did their training. All of these bodies will be happy to give you information about their members.
You need to check out the main consultant or surgeon in this way. Top quality professionals will simply not work with poor quality support staff. If the surgeon is good, it is reasonable to assume he will assemble a good team around him at the hospital or clinic.
Read online forums
Finally, it is always worth checking online to see if there are any forums of people who have had, or who are looking for, the same kind of medical treatment as you. Direct customer feedback is always going to be more honest and open than the glossy brochures, although you should remember that these will only be the personal experiences of other people and may not reflect the experience you will have as a medical tourist.