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Americans Seek Stem Cell Treatments Abroad
People with debilitating diseases have found hope in slowing the effects of their diseases and improving their current condition by traveling overseas for experimental stem cell treatments not yet being performed in the U.S. Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering.
Today, Americans are seeking stem cell treatment outside the U.S. for many conditions including:
· Heart disease
· Multiple Sclerosis
· Brain and spine disorders
· ALS - Lou Gherig's Disease
Medical tourists now travel to nearby Costa Rica and as far as China to seek out experimental stem cell treatments. The cost for treatments can range from $7,000 to $80,000, depending upon the destination and number of rounds of treatment.
According to National Public Radio (March 2008), 600 medical tourists have already traveled to China for stem cell treatments for $20,000 each.
As recently reported in the Northern Colorado Business Report, Jennifer Blankenship will travel to Costa Rica in August 2008 through BridgeHealth International for stem cell treatments. Blankenship has multiple sclerosis and will spend $7,000 as opposed to the U.S. price tag of $100,000.
Numerous articles have been written about stem cell treatments overseas citing the many reasons that medical tourists travel outside the U.S.:
· Breakthrough procedures not currently performed in the U.S.
· Extreme savings
· Attentive care given by doctors
Beike Biotech, a Chinese biotechnology company founded in 2005, has treated over 3,000 patients, with 70 to 80 percent of patients being satisfied with their results. To further advance the treatments they can provide, Beike recently opened a comprehensive global stem cell storage and processing facility in China.
Another popular destination in China is the Tiantan Puhua Stem Cell Center, located in Asia’s top neurosurgical hospital, Beijing Tiantan Puhua Hospital. Both Beike and Tiantan Puhua provide a list of patient experiences on their Web sites. Tiantan Puhua also has a section of patient blogs, where patients debating traveling for stem cell treatments can read about the “ups and downs” of the procedures and recuperation.
People thinking of traveling for stem cell treatments should speak with their doctors and conduct research before traveling. Although patients have seen improvements in their conditions, stem cell treatments are not an overnight cure.
The following sites provide information on stem cell procedures overseas:
· http://www.stemcellspuhua.com -- Tiantan Puhua Stem Cell Center in Beijing
· http://www.beikebiotech.com -- Chinese biotech company which arranges stem cell treatments for U.S. patients
· www.stemcellsabroad.com – Information on stem cell treatments in Costa Rica and Seychelles from BridgeHealth International
|Do I need vaccinations for my upcoming trip?|
One concern that weighs heavily on the minds of medical travelers before they depart for a medical procedure is their overall health. Daily headlines announcing the outbreak of diseases worldwide are disconcerting and prompt many patients to question the necessity for vaccines or medications prior to travel to certain areas of the world.
When conducting your investigations and preparations, be sure to include your travel companions in all these activities.
First and foremost: Patients should visit their regular primary care physician to ensure they have had all mandatory routine vaccinations. A list of routine vaccinations for children, adolescents and adults can be found here.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), “The only vaccine required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.”
· For travel health information on a specific country, visit the CDC destinations page at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationList.aspx. Individuals can access important information on travel destinations including travel notices, diseases in a select country, as well as tips for preparing one's trip and how to stay healthy abroad.
· The CDC also has a list of frequently asked questions featuring advice for travelers, which can be accessed at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentFAQ.aspx.
· Additional information on other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bitch protection, may be obtained from the CDC hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747).
Following are some recommendations from Patients With Passports, a company that assists medical travelers with guidance and services for appropriate vaccinations:
· Ideally, set up an appointment with your physician or travel medicine provider 4-6 weeks before your trip.
· Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks.
· If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. You might still benefit from shots or medications and other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
These Web sites provide useful information, such as suggested vaccinations for travelers headed abroad, safe food and watch precautions, appropriate measures to avoid contraction of mosquito-borne diseaes -- such as malaria -- as well as suggestions to avoid altitude sickness and others. Health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en/.
Ten "Must-Ask" Questions for Your Physician Candidate
©2008, Healthy Travel Media; All Rights Reserved
Josef Woodman, president of the Healthy Travel Media Company and author of Patients Beyond Borders.
Following are excerpts from the forthcoming Patients Beyond Borders Second Edition, to be released August 10, 2008.
Note from the author: Quality and continuity of care are the top concerns of nearly every patient considering medical travel. As you plan your procedure and your journey, you’ll want to be sure to make the following initial inquiries, either of your health travel agent or the physician(s) you’re interviewing. Note that for some of these questions, there’s no right or wrong answer. Your initial round of inquiry will help establish a dialogue. If the doctor or staff is evasive, hurried, or frequently interrupted, or if you can’t understand his or her English, then either dig deeper or move on.
1. What are your credentials? Where did you receive your medical degree? Where was your internship? What types of continuing education workshops have you attended recently? The right international physician either has credentials posted on the Web or will be happy to email you a complete résumé.
2. How many patients do you see each month? Hopefully, more than 50 and less than 500. The physician who says “I don’t know” should make you suspicious. Doctors should be in touch with their customer base and have such information readily available.
3. To what associations do you belong? Any worthwhile physician or surgeon is a member of at least one medical association. Particularly in regions where formal accreditation is weak, your practitioner should be keeping good company with others in the field. For example, if you’re seeking cosmetic surgery in Mexico, your surgeon should be a member of the Mexican Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery. It’s also a plus to see physicians who are members of, or affiliated with, American medical or dental associations.
4. How many patients have you treated who have had my condition? There’s safety in numbers, and you’ll want to know them. Find out how many general procedures your hospital has performed. Ask how many of your specific treatments for your specific condition your doctor has personally conducted. While numbers vary according to procedure, five cases are not good. Fifty or 200 are much better.
5. What are the fees for your initial consultation? Answers will vary, and you should compare prices with other physicians you interview. Some consultations are free; some are deducted from the bill, should you choose to be treated by that physician; some are a straight nonrefundable fee. In any event, it pays to have this information in advance.
6. May I call you on your cell phone before, during, and after treatment? Direct and personal access to your doctor is foreign to the American experience. Yet most international physicians stay in close, direct contact with their patients, and cell phones are their tools of choice. When physicians aren’t treating patients, you’ll find cells or headsets glued to their ears.
7. What medical and personal health records do you need to assess my condition and treatment needs? Most physicians require at least the basics: recent notes and recommendations from consultations with your local physician or specialist, x-rays directly related to your condition, perhaps a patient history, and other health records. Be wary of the physician who requires no personal paperwork.
8. Do you practice alone, or with others in a clinic or hospital? “Safety in numbers” is a good bet on this front. Look for a physician who practices among a group of certified professionals who have a broad range of related skills. For example, your initial consultation might reveal that you need a dental implant instead of bridgework, and it just so happens that Dr. Guerrero down the hall is one of the country’s leading implantologists. Or, on a return visit, your regular doctor might be on vacation, but Dr. Cho who’s available in the clinic can access your history and records, check your progress, and help you determine your next steps.
9. Who’s holding the knife during my procedure? Do you do the surgery yourself, or do your assistants do the surgery? This is one area where delegation isn’t desirable. You want specific assurances that all the trouble you went through to find the right surgeon isn’t wasted because the procedure will actually be performed by your practitioner’s protégé.
10. Are you the physician who oversees my entire treatment, including pre-surgery, surgery, prescriptions, physical therapy recommendations, and post-surgery checkups? For more extensive surgical procedures, you want the designated team captain. While that's usually the surgeon, check to make sure.
Josef Woodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical spas offer a wide range of wellness packages and are ideal recovery sites for post-surgical patients. Many countries – notably Costa Rica, India, China, Israel and Guatemala -- boast relaxing, exotic environments as a break from every day hassles and healthful environments for recovery.
www.Spafinder.com, a Web site chosen as the best for spa travel by Forbes and USA Today, provides viewers the option to look for “Getaway Spas” around the world including 71 in Europe, 40 in Asia, 26 in Central America and 21 throughout the Caribbean.
Along with typical spa services, destinations such as India and China offer travelers spiritual rejuvenation and traditional Chinese medicine. Spas in Central America and the Caribbean offer luxury accommodations in a tropical setting for beach lovers.
Depending upon your destination, prices can range from $200 to more than $500 per night for double occupancy, with island/beach resorts being the most expensive.
Becoming a spa traveler could be the first step to learning more about medical tourism first-hand. Traveling overseas for spa treatments can open your eyes to the quality care, courtesy and comfort which can be found in foreign countries.
Visit www.spafinder.com and learn about other wellness spa packages at:
· www.spamedholiday.com -- Guatemala
· www.spatravel.com -- Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia and Maldives
· www.spamagazine.com – Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, South and Central America
|ParkwayHealth's Living Donor Liver Transplant Program Continues to Meet Patient Demands|
Chicago, Ill./Singapore -- June 2008 -- Parkway Health, (www.parkwayhealth.com), Asia's leading healthcare provider with the largest network of private hospitals and healthcare services headquartered in Singapore and the first in Asia to perform a living donor liver transplant (LDLT) in 2002, reports that its Gleneagles Hospital has performed over one hundred successful LDLT procedures to date. With the full program in place, the hospital expects to perform about 50 procedures annually.
“Since its inception, the LDLT program has provided an exceptional, quality-focused program, with milestones that include the first pediatric and adult living transfers in Asia,“ says Thomas Johnsrud, consultant for Parkway Health North America.
LDLT is a procedure in which a diseased liver is replaced with a segment of liver from a healthy human donor, usually a sibling or close family member. Living donor liver transplantation can be performed on anyone with end-stage liver disease regardless of the original cause of their disease.
“The success of liver transplantation at Gleneagles has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of patients who are now being considered for this operation,” says Johnsrud, noting that in 2007, there were 17,440 patients waiting for a liver transplant in the United States. “The number of cadaver donors available for transplantation was simply insufficient, a factor which led to the development of the LDLT program.”
Gleneagles program director Tan Kai-Chah, M.D., a pioneer in the LDLT procedure, has performed more than 500 liver transplants in Britain, Singapore and Malaysia. He leads the team which comprises experts from various specialties, with expertise and extensive experience in major hepatobiliary and liver transplantation surgery.
With an ongoing and increasing shortage of cadaver livers, transplant centers in Asia have adopted living donation as a partial solution to this shortage. Individuals now recognize that by donating a portion of their liver to a relative, friend or co-worker, they can make give the gift of life.
|AMA provides first ever guidance on medical tourism|
CHICAGO, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To ensure the safety of patients considering traveling abroad for medical care, new guiding principles on medical tourism were adopted today at the American Medical Association's (AMA) annual policy-making meeting. The nine principles are the first-of-its- kind, and outline steps for care abroad for consideration by patients, employers, insurers and third-parties responsible for coordinating travel outside of the U.S.
"Medical tourism is a small but growing trend among American patients, and it's unclear at this time whether the risks outweigh the benefits," said AMA Board Member J. James Rohack, M.D. "Since this is uncharted waters, it is our hope that the AMA's new guidance on medical tourism will benefit patients considering traveling abroad for health care."
In 2006, an estimated 150,000 Americans received health care overseas, and nearly half of the procedures were for medically necessary surgeries. The emergence of medical tourism is in part a response to the rising cost of health care in the U.S., which puts needed health care out of reach for many, particularly those without health care coverage.
"We need to address the cost of care in the U.S. and cover the uninsured so that every American who needs health care can get it right here at home," said Dr. Rohack. "Until there is significant action at home, patients with limited resources may turn elsewhere for care. It is important that U.S. patients have access to credible information and resources so that the care they receive abroad is safe and effective."
The new AMA principles call for all medical care outside of the U.S. to be voluntary. They address financial incentives, insurance coverage for care abroad and care coordination. The principles also call for patients to be made aware of their legal rights prior to travel and to have access to physician licensing and facility accreditation information prior to travel.
"For those patients considering medical tourism, the new AMA principles are an important starting point for consideration before making the decision to go abroad for health care," said Dr. Rohack.
To ensure that insurance companies and others that facilitate medical tourism adhere to the new principles, the AMA will introduce model legislation for consideration of state lawmakers.
The new AMA guidelines on medical tourism can be viewed here: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/31/medicaltourism.pdf
|BridgeHealth Introduces its Clients' and Traveling Patients' Rights and Duties|
Leader in medical travel industry strives for effective and ethical care and support of its network of hospitals, medical staff, employees and clients
DENVER, Co. – June 2008 – BridgeHealth International, Inc. (www.BridgeHealthInternational.com ) today unveiled its patient bill of rights and duties, “Clients’ and Traveling Patients’ Rights and Duties,” as part of its focus on giving businesses and individuals an expectation of rights and ethical treatment similar to those provided in U.S. hospitals, along with the highest quality international medical care.
“As the premier option for delivering high quality care and treatments to medical travelers, BridgeHealth is committed to meeting client and patient expectations for fair and ethical treatment,” says Victor Lazzaro, Jr., CEO of BridgeHealth. “Medical travel requires collaboration among clients, patients, physicians, and other healthcare professionals every step of the way. Open and honest communication, respect for personal and professional values, and awareness of differences are crucial.”
BridgeHealth modeled its “Clients’ and Traveling Patients’ Rights and Duties” on similar guidelines routinely used in the US hospital system. BridgeHealth clients and traveling patients can expect the right to:
· Receive clear, concise, and timely information about rights and duties, as well as the proper way to exercise them.
· Be informed of the first and last names, professional degree, and position occupied by the health staff providing care.
· Have all the necessary information required to give consent or deny authorization to receive a specific procedure or medical treatment.
· Receive, without any distinction whatsoever, dignified treatment: respect, consideration, and courtesy.
· Receive information with due diligence and efficiency.
· Accept or reject quotes and treatments plans.
· Have access to their files and receive a copy of the same, or authorize a third party access to their files by giving them respective legal authorization.
· Demand respect for the confidential nature of clinical history and all information concerning illness except when, by special law, notification must be made to health authorities.
· A timely, thorough and documented process for registering complaints.
· Receive a detailed statement of account with an explanation of all expenses incurred during treatment.
· Receive visits from family members or friends if desired, as long as health condition permits and visits are within established hours.
“Whether a medical traveler chooses to use distant locations such as Singapore or India or opts to stay closer to home at destinations including Mexico or Costa Rica, BridgeHealth professionals are sensitive to cultural, racial, linguistic, religious, age, gender, and disability concerns,” Lazzaro continues. “By articulating these values, we are demonstrating the importance of remaining involved in this critical intersection of patient welfare and dignity and coordinating patient care outside the United States. Individual well-being is concomitant to our goals and is an overriding concern for maintaining patient dignity and ultimately satisfaction.”