I would like to look at the medical tourist more as a discerning costumer in an ever shrinking world where all of us are moving closer and closer together and our lives become intertwined in a real-time environment. “Abroad” is also a very relative term. Some of my patients in my US practice come from quite far away with flight distances comparable to what it would take to reach Trinidad. Are they medical tourists going abroad ? I would surmise they are discerning clients, in this case the discretion comes in because some of my services are unique and rare.
Cosmetic surgery is a luxury good. It is not “medically necessary” and thus not covered by any third party payor. Thus all money that changes hands is real and comes out of pocket of the client. Costs of cosmetic procedures in markets such as the US, Canada and Europe are sky rocketing. Does the price tag in these markets reflect the value ? It is my contention that there is a different reason why Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery can offer an all inclusive package (surgeon’s fee, anesthesiologist’s fee, hospital fee, cost of an FDA/CE approved silicon cohesive gel implant) for breast augmentations for USD 5000, which would cost at least 6500 USD in the US. Same surgeon, same implant, tertiary care facility to perform the procedure and not some low end surgery center or doubtful in office operating room. I am there and I am providing this cosmetic procedure in a private practice in the US at this rate.
The reason lies in a completely different cost structure for everybody involved. Lower taxes, reduced cost of labor and materials, particularly the absence of unnecessary regulations and government interference and a by light years less perverted legal system avoid costs which eventually are passed on to the client by surgeon, anesthesiologist, hospital, implant manufacturers etc.
The same argument holds true for what I like to call “classic healthcare” – medically necessary procedures, which are usually covered by third party payors in some countries. Clients lacking health insurances, or who are covered by pseudo insurances with several thousand dollars deductibles, or spend years on waiting lists or find their “health insurance” denying coverage are all of a sudden in the same situation as somebody in the market for say a face lift.
All costs also become real money. Healthcare becomes a limited and costly good, goodbye illusion of “right to healthcare”. In this situation Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery can provide the “classic healthcare” services in the realm of plastic surgery – complex hand surgery, microsurgery, peripheral nerve and brachial plexus surgery, burn surgery, flap surgery, breast reconstruction, craniofacial and cleft lip/palate surgery. Some of these services are more difficult to price out as compared to cosmetic procedures, which lend themselves very well to packaging and fairly reliable cost calculations as they are by and large standardized, predictable undertakings without surgical surprises or the need for improvisation. It is our general objective though to be in these areas as well at about 50% of what a comparable procedure would cost in the US.
Now the argument is pervasive that the “high standards” of the facility, surgeon and anesthesiologist add to the value and thus justify the price tag. They can be researched, pondered upon, mused about. The standards and credentials of say “surgeon A, preferred by entertainers and movie stars in country X” and his hospital as I recently read on a website promoting cosmetic surgery in southeast Asia defy scrutiny and are in the eyes of the client not comparable to the friendly neighborhood plastic surgeon.
At Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery we take this argument completely out of the equation. All our surgeons are trained and board certified in the US and Europe. They maintain credentials and a private or academic practice in these countries and are required to do so to maintain this edge of credibility and trustworthiness. Their credentials are available for review for our registered members. Part of our surgeons’ practice is in Trinidad and they spend part of their time at Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery to provide cosmetic and plastic surgery services mainly to international clients. No unknowns here. It is simply the client’s choice to have the same surgeon operate in the US or Europe at the prevailing market rate there or convene with the surgeon at Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery for a 50% lower overall rate. By all standards a pretty straightforward decision. Both the client and the surgeon travel, a double turn in medical tourism ! We perform procedures at hospitals, which have everything from linear accelerators, cutting edge in vitro fertilization programs and cyberknives to open heart surgery and stereotactic brain surgery and provide a level of care dwarfing most of what I have seen during my career of operating in three different continents and represent a clear cut choice (e. g. St. Claire Medical Center www.medcorpltd.com, or Medical Associates Hospital) compared to some of the surgery centers and smaller suburban hospitals where I provide cosmetic surgery in the US.
Choosing Trinidad Institute of Plastic Surgery for cosmetic and plastic surgery has the added value of recovery in one of the most attractive and safest Caribbean islands, where our clients choose from luxury hotels and eco or tropical resorts for a smooth recovery and an overall Caribbean vacation style experience in the case of more extensive procedures. In most instances, flying is safe and well tolerated a couple of days after most standard cosmetic procedures and for selected procedures such as breast augmentations, liposuction, eyelid surgery or mini and midface lifts we are able to offer “weekend getaways”, much as I do for my non local clients in my US practice. Being half “Trini” by marriage I always encourage a stay, though !