Traveling for Medical Procedures: Thrifty or Health-Endangering?

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Yesterday I was working hard (wasting time online) and found this article on how companies and US health insurance companies are looking to save money by sending employees overseas for basic medical procedures. I thought about it, and in my case, the issues would be cleanliness, medical standards, medical training, and other basics.

I don't doubt that medical care can be just as good outside the US as in the US, but I am comfortable with my medical care here, where all my doctors can read my giant medical records going back for decades in one place. This even has prevented me from switching to another health care center - I would have to spend a fortune getting all my medical files moved. Digital ones are easy, its the older paper ones which are expensive. Just think of photocopying all those pages.

Then this morning's news is all about how patients who travel for medical procedures overseas are bringing home this new resistant strain of germs that have a gene which is resistant to all but one currently known antibiotic. So maybe I won't jump on that medical travel bug quite so fast.

It is not surprising to me that a germ has appeared that is resistant to Western medicine. If you think about it, it's a completely different germ pool in another city in a foreign company. Local germ pools are developed based on the people who live there. So think, if it's a city with a relatively local germ pool and you stick some outsiders into it who have different immunities, and voila, you get new germs with new mutations. I think it doesn't matter to germ pools if the new people are introduced from 100 miles away or 10,000 miles away.

The problems are pinpointed in the last two paragraphs of the second article:

"... "What you're looking at here is like coastal erosion, a gradual winding down of our ability to treat infections. The worry is, as time goes by, infections become a little harder and harder to treat. So much of modern medicine depends critically on our ability to treat infections as they arise."

"The Lancet authors say the growing popularity of travel for medical care makes it unlikely that this particular genie will ever be stuffed back in the bottle. But they warn that such travel should probably be discouraged, saying the establishment of NDM-1 carrying strains around the world is a “clear and frightening” possibility."

If you add in the costs of treating antibiotic-resistant germs against the potential savings gained my treating patients overseas,the savings just may not be there in the long run.