Medical Travel: The Pros and Cons

Sep 26, 2016

Medical tourism, also known as medical travel, is becoming increasingly popular among Australians. What are the pros and cons of medical travel, and what can you do to ensure you have the best possible experience if you are seeking medical treatment or a cosmetic procedure abroad?

The Pros of Medical Travel 

What are the benefits of medical travel?

Cost Savings

Even when you add on the costs of a flight and accommodation before and after your treatment at your chosen location, you can save a significant sum of money by choosing to undergo surgery abroad. The main reason why surgery is cheaper abroad is due to the difference in labor costs.

The table below highlights what doctors and nurses can expect to earn in Thailand and Australia.

  Australia Thailand
Doctor   $150,000 $50,000
Nurse   $70,000 $17,000


This difference is what enables specific procedures and treatments to be so much cheaper, while medical technology and drugs will be the same cost as they would be in Australia.

How does the salary difference reflect in the cost of treatment?

Dental Implants$3,500 – $7,500$2,300

Procedure Australia Thailand
Breast Augmentation   $8,000 – $12,000 $3,000 – $4,000
Dental Implants   $3,500 – $7,500 $2,300
Facelift   $9,000 – $10,000 $4,000 – $5,500
Tummy Tuck   $7,000 – $8,000 $5,000 – $5,200 
Knee / Hip Replacement   $20,000 $12,000 – $14,000


Figures in both tables courtesy of

We can see a significant difference in the cost of undergoing a procedure in Thailand versus Australia, and the opportunity to save money is clear. We have used Thailand as the example in this scenario as it is the most popular destination for medical tourists, as well as being the most popular medical travel destination in the world. Note that the above figures are for the treatment only, they do not include air fares or accommodation.

Reduced Waiting Lists

Depending on the procedure or treatment you need, you could find yourself on a waiting list for months, if not years, before being able to go ahead. When you begin to look abroad you will quickly be provided with dates when you can be treated, which will cut months, or maybe even years, off your waiting time, all while saving you money!

Treatment at Australian Standards

One of the biggest worries that puts people off medical tourism is that they believe the standard of care they will receive will be lower than if they were to have a procedure in Australia. However, by carefully choosing where you have your treatment, you can assure yourself of receiving only the highest levels of care.

Use the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) to help you find accredited clinics that have been verified to provide care on a par with Australian standards. As an additional way to put your mind at rest, seek out testimonials from previous patients that have had the same procedure at the clinics you are looking at.

Cons of Medical Travel

What are the drawbacks of medical travel that you should consider before going abroad for treatment?

Disease Exposure

If you are considering travelling abroad for urgent treatment rather than a cosmetic procedure, you should consider that exposure to some diseases having not built up a natural immunity can be dangerous, particularly if undergoing treatment for gastrointestinal conditions. This is a particular hazard in countries such as Thailand.

If you choose a clinic through the ACHSI, the clinic will usually provide advice on how to stay safe and avoid exposure to certain diseases, which may involve a longer stay as a patient following surgery. Clinics that are verified by the ACHSI will also have clear procedures for complaints, as well as telling you what you can do should you experience complications after returning to Australia. You will also be able to find out about any other conditions that you may be able to be immunized against prior to visiting a different country.

Holidays Post-Treatment

When travelling to an exotic location for medical treatment, there is undoubtedly an attraction to staying on and enjoying a holiday afterwards. Doing so is not a problem so long as you have been fully discharged, although you need to be careful with how you expose any scars to the sun. Scar tissue that becomes sunburnt will heal darker and be more noticeable on your body. Ensure you choose a strong sun lotion and ensure it is suitable for using post-surgery, and ideally aim to keep your scars covered at all times while healing.

Long Distance Travel

Travelling long distances post-surgery is known to increase the risk of complications. If you are planning to travel back to Australia soon after your procedure, you should take precautions to lower the risk of suffering from deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism. Although your clinic should advise you and even provide you with compression stockings, be sure to buy your own just in case you aren’t, and when flying home make sure you regularly leave your seat and walk around the cabin.

Considering the Pros and Cons of Medical Travel

When considering the pros and cons of medical travel, is it clear that you can mitigate the drawbacks and risks by taking the time to ensure you fight the right clinic for your treatment and understand exactly what you need to do both to quicken your recovery and reduce the risk of complications. Whether you choose to travel home to Australia as soon as possible after your medical treatment or stay to enjoy a holiday, make sure you’ve planned to counter these drawbacks so you can fully enjoy the benefits of medical travel. 

Disclaimer:  This article contains general comments and recommendations only.  This article has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before taking any action you should consider the appropriateness of the comments made in the article, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. If this article relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular credit product you should obtain and consider the relevant disclosure documents before applying for the product.

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