Chapter 5 Page 3 | Patient Support Sites for Medical Tourism
Patient Support Sites
For months, I wondered what was the most useful information I could put in this chapter when it came time to write it. Then it came to me. There are a number of forums on the Internet for patients to discuss cosmetic surgery, and there are many Web sites put up by patients who have been abroad for surgery. There are also a growing number of commercial Web sites that help connect prospective patients with overseas surgeons and even make all the arrangements for a surgery trip.
I’ll talk about some of them as we go along, but these are important, can’t-do-without-them Web sites. As it turns out, the best support site for patients who are looking into the option of going overseas for cosmetic surgery evolved before my eyes.
PlasticSurgeryJourneys.com (PSJ), which used to be strictly a message group, has truly lived up to its promise of working toward being the best international plastic surgery resource and support group on the Web. Registration is required but membership is free as long as you post a message at least every 2 weeks. A premium membership, for those who don’t want to be held to the posting requirement or who simply want to support the site, is around $35 a year.
What sets PSJ apart is both the commitment of its founders and the quality and passion of its membership. The site has evolved rapidly, thanks to both. The forums are a trove of information compiled by a researching and questing army of patients and interested potential patients. If you want to read about the experiences that others have had in traveling abroad for cosmetic surgery, talk about choosing a surgeon, get advice in any aspect of planning your trip, or just crave a little company and moral support, PSJ is where you want to be looking. I drop in almost daily to see what’s new; as I type this, I notice that 55 people have answered the survey on “How much money would you say you have saved by having plastic surgery done outside the United States?” More than two-thirds of the respondents have chosen answers indicating an amount greater than $5,000.
This site is a terrific resource for those considering weight-loss surgery. However, it is also a great site for anyone considering cosmetic surgery abroad. There is a voluminous message board for plastic-surgery patients, reviews of international surgeons, and a membership directory. Even if you are not obese, it’s well worth a look-through if you are interested in cosmetic surgery — particularly on the body rather than the face.
Medical and Travel Services
There is an entire industry growing up around the notion that medical tourism is “the next big thing,” or at least one of the next big things. Hospitals and surgeons in developing countries are not the only entities interested. Companies are springing up that will handle most of the details for prospective patients. One such company is the U.S.-based firm MedRetreat (www.medretreat.com), which was launched in the spring of 2005 and offers a full array of medical services in a number of countries. Individuals are starting businesses as medical tourist guides and booking agents for surgeons, and resorts and destinations are seeking to add medical services to their array of lures.
There are a seemingly infinite number of Web sites devoted to international tourism and travel, and they’re easy to find. However, I have a personal favorite that is appropriate as the final “must visit” site: Virtual Tourist (VT) (www.virtualtourist.com).
VT boasts more than 600,000 members from more than 220 countries and territories. Wherever you might want to go, whatever your questions might be, you can find someone at V T who has “been there, done that.” Free registration is not required but is necessary to participate in some areas of the site. In addition, I advise spending some time looking around at travel.state.gov, the U.S. State Department’s official site for international travel. There you will find information on all paperwork requirements for foreign travel; tips and warnings for traveling abroad, by country; and advice on health, safety, and emergency services.
Number One Priority: Good Research
The sites noted in this chapter are sufficient for anyone to begin and finalize a decision to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery. Consider them a baseline and prime points of entry. The next level — a step beyond my arbitrary but informed site recommendations — is the rest of the Internet. You’ll be searching it, of course. Below (next) are my best tips, customized for searching for information about medical tourism and cosmetic surgery in different countries. Your results will not be exactly the same, of course: search returns can change almost minute-to-minute, and the numbers below are an example, a snapshot in time.