Sep 16

(January 2006)

A Bangladeshi, a Brit, an Arab and a New Yorker were sitting in a doctor’s waiting room …

What could be a preamble for an off-color joke is in reality the tangible face of the medical-tourism phenomenon. What brings together such a rich melange of people to a medical facility thousands of miles from the comfort of their homes? In fact, their motivation is as diverse as their cultures, languages, and geography.

The Bangladeshi seeks an alternative to the less-developed medical system in his own country. He comes for quality.

The British woman undergoing radiation therapy for her breast cancer is side-stepping the long queue in England?s socialized health-care scheme. She comes for access.

The affluent Emirati from the United Arab Emirates is seeing four doctors in one morning with a personal interpreter/valet in tow and a steaming cup of Starbuck’s coffee in his hand. He comes for service.

Then there is the New Yorker. What on Earth is he doing here? What has possessed this 55-ear-old upper-middle-class stockbroker from one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world to leave behind arguably the most sophisticated medical system on the planet to have surgery in Asia? He is one of 40 million uninsured Americans who is self-employed, not rich, not poor, old enough to need his prostate removed but not old enough to qualify for Medicare. And he does not want to pay the high price for private medical insurance. He comes for price.

But the Americans can not be sold on price alone. Our friend from New York is a case in point. Of course, the price was 80 percent less than that of the U.S. quotes he got. But being a day-trader, he knows his research. He knows what he wants — a cutting-edge minimally invasive laser procedure for prostate removal by a surgeon who has done the most of that procedure in the world, in a hospital that is of international standard that could take him right away. His search brought him to Asia.

He came for quality?; and access?; and service; ?and price.

As an American who has lived in Asia for over a decade, I can safely say that we Americans are a demanding bunch. And it is truly a leap of faith to trust your health to a doctor that you have never met at a hospital you have never seen in a country you have to find first on a map.

This is the value then of Jeff Schult’s excellent guide to the world of medical tourism. Jeff has scoured the hot-spots of medical tourism, talked to the patients, Googled the Internet to within an inch of its life, and taken the plunge himself into overseas health care. The result is a balanced, unbiased, and thoughtful guide for the informed consumer. Beauty from Afar is an entertaining and practical handbook that includes important considerations that any prospective medical tourist would? and should? consider before making the “leap”.

I thought I knew a lot about the subject, having lived it for 10 years. Jeff has opened a whole new world of possibilities, and he has made me a student again. I am convinced more than ever that medical tourism is not a fad. It is not about “cheap” health care. It is about smart, well informed people looking for quality service at a reasonable price in a world where distances and lines drawn on a map are not the barriers they once were.

Decisions about your health are important. Read this book. Do your own research. Make smart, informed decisions. Maybe you can narrow the leap of faith to be more of a hop.

Healthy Travels!

Curtis J. Schroeder
Group Chief Executive Officer
Bumrungrad International
Bangkok, Thailand

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Sep 14

(February 2006)

Throughout the research and writing of Beauty from Afar, I communicated with and consulted many surgeons, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. I talked to and consulted many more people than those mentioned or quoted in this book, having had to pick and choose each step of the way. Readers should not assume that any particular doctor or medical facility has my particular endorsement just by fact of their appearance in these pages. That which serves the general narrative of this book should not be taken as more than that. In no way do I mean to suggest, for example, that the surgeons to whose work I refer are better at what they do than many others who are unmentioned. They are offered as illustrative examples and are among those who have the most experience in medical tourism. From their collective individual experiences, from the published news reports about medical tourism of the last decade, from extensive research online, and from collateral reading of what few books touch upon the subject, I was able to assemble a more general picture of what individual prospective medical
tourists should seek out, and what they can expect to find.

Similarly, that I mention companies that cater to patients who wish to travel abroad for surgery should in no way be construed as endorsing the quality of their services. Again, they are examples, a few chosen from many fledgling enterprises. It is my personal judgment, based on lengthy experience as a journalist and virtually none with startup companies, that those I selected have a stronger chance than most of succeeding in the long run; but I have no way of knowing for sure.

In the interests of full disclosure, readers should also know I have accepted no remuneration, fee, or discounted services from any business or individual mentioned in this book. I owe meals to a couple of people, perhaps, but owe favorable or preferential treatment to no one and made no bargains regarding treatment in return for interviews or access to facilities. Many of those I did interview were allowed to review draft text of Beauty from Afar to check the accuracy of my reporting, and I thank them all for their time and diligence. The end product is solely my responsibility.

Many people have asked me why I chose to write about the specific countries that I did. Fine low-cost medical services and talented, highly qualified surgeons exist in many others. All along, however, I was determined to provide information about countries that are currently the most accessible and inviting to medical tourists, the ones where the U.S. and European markets are targeted and courted. Certainly, one can find excellent plastic surgeons and medical facilities in many countries that are unmentioned in this book. If you prefer going to one of them, don’t take my neglect as a sign of my disapproval. Do your homework, choose wisely, and have a great trip.

Jeff Schult
Author, Beauty from Afar

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