Medical Travel: My Firsthand Experience

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by Michael Olesen Medical travel was an intriguing idea. I’ve had almost 30 years of experience in healthcare, 10+ of which were in the operating room and another 10+ years in risk, safety and quality. I had a healthy amount of skepticism about medical travel since I have seen firsthand some of the shortcuts that often occur in the U.S. healthcare system and the way that data can easily be gamed to the advantage of providers and facilities. However, I wanted to be open-minded. I had gotten to know Maria Maldonado from Trip4Care through a mutual friend, and came to respect her knowledge about the healthcare industry and passion for quality and improving the healthcare marketplace. After many conversations, I was intrigued by the notion of pursuing a dental implant in Costa Rica. I have sufficient experience to be able to vett out a provider on my own, but felt comfortable enough with her thorough approach to place my trust completely in her recommendation. The only thing that I knew of the recommended provider was that he was trained in Loma Linda, California. I was immediately surprised when I first met the oral surgeon in his office. It was a very modern facility and all of the staff were fluent in English. I think what impressed me the most was the interest he took in me as a person as opposed to just being a patient. We talked for 30-45 minutes before he even looked in my mouth. He wanted to know about me, my goals, and my recollections of my dental history in detail. I have held board certification in healthcare infection prevention and had a number of questions that were beyond those that most patients would ask, and he answered them all to my satisfaction After examining my mouth, he sent me to an imaging lab within the building for a 3-D image of my jaw to ensure that there was sufficient thickness in all dimensions for the implant to properly get seated within the bone. I returned with a CD of the results, and he reviewed the images and told me that I was a good candidate for the procedure. He paid a lot of attention to my main source of anxiety – pain – and carefully administered local anesthetic to ensure that I was comfortable before he began. In addition, I had asked about the need for narcotics after the procedure and he indicated that I wouldn’t need them and would do fine with another type of analgesic. I was a little concerned but, given my experience to this point, I was relatively at ease about it. I looked out the window over San Jose and the mountains in the distance while he did the procedure. He kept me updated as to what was happening along the way. I was very surprised at how comfortable I was the entire time. When he was done, I was given detailed aftercare instructions and a prescription for all of the needed items, which I was able to pick up in the pharmacy in the adjoining hospital building. I was a little sore later that evening, but far less than I expected, even with a non-narcotic. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this was going. A few days later I returned for a follow-up visit and everything looked well from his perspective. I spent a number of days conducting some business in the area after that as well as doing some sightseeing. I fell in love with the country and was excited for my return for the remainder of the procedure, which is essentially the addition of a crown. I’m expecting to do that in early 2016, which will be an ideal time to escape winter in Minnesota. I have told a number of friends and relatives about my medical travel and have emphasized how GREAT an experience this was for me. I suggested that if any of them need any kind of oral surgery that they should contact Trip4Care to experience what medical tourism has to offer. I think the most telling outcome of my experience from this is just how significantly I have become a believer in this industry. I find myself being somewhat of an evangelist to promote it, and am working with Maria to develop the business further. We are looking at this from a far larger perspective as a means to increase healthcare quality in the U.S. while reducing costs due to greater competition. In that sense, not only will clients benefit, but the greater population will benefit, as well. I think that is a great vision for the future.

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