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Is medical tourism right for you?

If an injury or pending operation has you sidelined from running, medical tourism might be an option worth considering. What is it and what's the best approach?

Above the clouds.

When it comes to health care, Canadians are used to dealing with wait lists– oftentimes, long ones. 

While our country’s medical care trumps many others in the world, there’s a downside to everything. Getting an appointment with a specialist, for example, can take months. Certain surgical procedures can be much farther in the future than one may wish. Some aren’t available within our borders period.  

What is medical tourism?

If the term “Medical Tourism” is unfamiliar to you, you can pretty much guess its definition: it’s travelling for the purpose of seeking healthcare out of one’s local area. Say, for example, you’d like to have a pending surgery take place as soon as possible but the wait times won’t allow it. Or, maybe, it’s a second opinion from a specialist that you’re after. These are examples of why Canadians sometimes choose to book flights (oftentimes to the U.S.) to travel to a hospital out of the country. 

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Consulting a third party

Health Vantis is a third party, Halifax-based company that takes the guesswork out of medical tourism. It’s led by Christy Evon and Leanna Christie. Both are certified medical tourism professionals and have spent time living in the U.S. as well as Canada (and thus have experienced two different approaches to health care). 

“It started because we were both frustrated because we couldn’t get something done here fast enough,” says Christie. “As we started talking to people, we realized we’re not the only ones.” 

Their main objective is to do all the homework and prep for someone who is travelling for a medical procedure. They do the booking, find the hospital, meet with the doctors, check out the facilities, schedule the surgery, find the most comfortable hotels to stay in post-operation and handle the post-opp arrangements back in Canada when necessary. They even find suitable tourist activities for one’s travel companion to partake in during the time away from home. 

“We ask up front what types of things you like to do to get an overall picture of likes, interests and hobbies. We go to every location that we send someone to to look around and experience it for ourselves. It’s more personal,” says Evon. 

Some may balk at the idea of leaving Canada to visit a doctor or surgeon. Christie just wants those Canadians to know that there are possibilities beyond the borders. “Not all people are aware of the options that they have,” she says. “We want to let people know that there are other options.” 

But for folks who are already on board with taking a trip for a medical purpose, this duo is a one-stop shop to get the groundwork and planning out of the way. As people who plan these types of trips for a living, they know how to do a thorough job. “We’ve done the homework and research. There’s a lot of moving parts and questions we ask that another person might not know about. Do you know what you’re searching for and what questions to ask?” says Evon. “We can say that we’ve personally met these people and we’ve seen the facility,” she adds.

Female nurse holding patient using crutches in hospital corridor

Why should runners consider it?

How does this concept apply to runners specifically? 

“They are active and fit and proactive about health. They’re also prone to injury from overuse,” states Evon. “If you have to wait months to get a specialist and then a couple months for a test, a year could have gone by– or even longer– and that’s detrimental to someone who takes pride in taking care of himself or herself.”

Not to mention, if the pending procedure is something that has a person sidelined from running, that inactivity can impact physical and mental health too.  

Canadians my have to add their names to wait lists across the country, but free health care is a price that keeps a large part of the population from outsourcing their medical procedures. That said, when it comes to funding an out-of-country procedure, there are two things that Health Vantis wants to make Canadians aware of: firstly, when scouting out hospitals, they look for facilities that have fair prices without sacrificing quality. Secondly, they work with a company that finances medical tourism by providing clients with a loan that can either be paid to the client or directly to the hospital. 

But if there’s one overall mission of the Halifax company, it’s take over all the planning and cut out of the stress of having surgery away from home.

“When it happens to you, you have to deal with it, your family has to deal with it, it’s not pleasant,” says Christie. “It’s not going on vacation.”

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