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Medical Leave




A hospital room in Bangkok, Thailand.

Photo courtesy of Medictrex

A hospital room in Bangkok, Thailand.

AS BUSINESS COSTS SKYROCKET, more companies may be forced to outsource their services – such as call centers and I.T. departments – to Manila and Mumbai. What’s next? Indian doctors doing hip-replacement surgery on grandma? Oh wait, that’s already happening. It’s part of an industry called “medical tourism.” Between 150,000 to 300,000 Americans were expected to travel overseas for health care in 2007, according to “Patients Beyond Borders,” a book about medical tourism. Common procedures include heart surgery, dental work, orthopedics, cosmetic surgery, neurosurgery, fertility treatments, LASIK surgery and cancer treatment.

The cost savings overseas are enormous. Patients typically pay between 50 percent to 90 percent less than they would on American soil. And that often includes roundtrip airfare and a post-op stay at a luxury resort. Coronary-artery bypass in the U.S., for instance, can set a patient back $75,500. The same procedure in India costs about $11,400.

That’s where companies like MedicTrex, a new Maui-based travel agency, comes in. For a $250 flat fee, the company finds physicians, makes appointments, books travel plans and arranges accommodations. The only thing it doesn’t do is give medical advice.

“We have a major crisis in that 50 million people in American don’t have insurance, or are underinsured,” says Nicole Rullet, vice president of business development for MedicTrex. “Until the U.S. can get its medical costs down, [medical tourism] is one option for folks.”
Rullet and her husband, Chris, traveled around the world two years ago in search of the best hospitals. They chose four: Bangkok Hospital Medical Center; Singapore General Hospital; Apollo Hospitals in India; and Samaritano Hospital in Brazil. The hospitals’ staff members are English-speaking and board-certified in the U.S. and Europe. The facilities are accredited by the Joint Commission International, a subsidiary of the group that regulates hospitals in the U.S. At the time of this writing, MedicTrex was scheduled to send its first patient overseas for pancreatic treatment.

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Hawaii Business,February