Our objective at Retire Early Lifestyle is to offer our readers viable solutions to retirement challenges. With the prices of medical care and health insurance in the States being so high, medical tourism or medical travel is a workable answer for many.
Travis Kraft is the owner of Passport Medical and he shares some very important insights on this conundrum.
Take a look.
Retire Early Lifestyle: Travis, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you tell us a little about your background?
Travis, Passport Medical: Sure, I have been involved in starting and running businesses most of my adult life. I really enjoy the challenge of taking an idea and making it come to life. I learned mostly on the go and by trial and error, which really isn’t the most cost effective way of doing things. I never took formal schooling in business until recently. You see, I have a 20-year-old son, and he has caught the entrepreneurial bug from me. He has been attending university for the past two years and came to me in the fall of 2012 and told me that he wanted to quit school and start a business.
So, before getting too upset, I asked him, “What do you want to do?” He mentioned he wanted to start a landscaping business. I said, “Ok, do you know what it takes to make that happen and how much work it will be?”
He said, “Well you can help me?”
I smiled and said, “If you go to school and finish I will help you. School is very important, and you need to finish before you go and concentrate on starting a business.”
Then he said, “Well you never went to school and you did well.”
At that point, I was speechless… What do I say to him now without being a hypocrite? I said, “You are right Jordan…I never did go to school and have learned the hard way and I wish that I had.”
So this past year, I have dedicated myself to achieving one thing I never did. That is going to school and getting my post-secondary education. At first, I was doing it to prove a point to my son. Now I’m doing it for me. I will graduate this June with honors. I think my strategy worked, as he is now enrolled in the same program that I’m just finishing. I hope he will have all the success in the world, and I will support him fully with anything he does.
REL: What was your motivation to begin your business of Passport Medical?
PM: Starting Passport Medical was a culmination of several factors. I saw a real need for three groups of people: people who have limited insurance; people who have no insurance at all; and in Canada, people who are on waiting lists for years before they can have surgery in their socialized healthcare system. Back in 2009 I began to research Medical Tourism. It consumed me. I wanted to know anything and everything about this industry called Medical Tourism and how I might be able to help people in their many different medical situations.
Late 2009 and the beginning of 2010 there was a medical breakthrough for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) patients called the Liberation Treatment. The procedure was not available in either Canada or the US. There was an outpouring of media and social media coverage on this procedure. So we did our research and found that if the correct protocols were used that this procedure called CCSVI (Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) in most cases would relieve symptoms or slow the progression of the MS down.
After doing a lot of research we reached out to our hospital that we have dealt with in Costa Rica. In this hospital, we met with Dr. Macial Fallas. He is a Vascular Surgeon and was familiar with Dr. Zamboni’s findings with regards to the correct protocols to use for this procedure. We began to create the program and once in place, we sent over 1200 MS patients to be treated. The results were amazing, and a many of the patients came away from this experience with great results and lifelong friends since we had everyone stay at the same hotel. So at any one time there were more than 80 patients with their families at the hotel. It made for a great family atmosphere.
The stories and friendships that came from this program were heartwarming.
REL: How long have you been in business?
PM: We have been in business since 2009 and since then have sent over 2000 patients to be treated in destinations all over the world. Since then we have been awarded the “Leadership Excellence in Medical Facilitation Award” presented to us by the Medical Tourism Association at the World Medical Tourism Conference in Chicago, IL. We also have a complaint free record with the Better Business Bureau, which we are very proud of.
REL: What were the biggest challenges you faced?
PM: I must say the biggest challenge we face on a daily basis is that people just don’t know that Medical Tourism is available and a very viable option. Awareness is something we as an industry are striving to improve. The doctors and facilities that we deal with are second to none.
People would be amazed at the quality, safety, and affordability that Medical Tourism offers. Many people can save upwards of 80% on their medical procedure such as a much-needed knee or hip replacement. We have dedicated an entire separate site call Hip and Knee Replacement Center which is a Division of Passport Medical for this purpose. We also offer a second dedicated site to Dental Tourism, which is call Dental Vacation Center we did this because we feel that it is important to give dedicated and precise information and having separate sites allows us to do that and make it easier for our patients to find the information they are looking for, this way they can make an educated decision if Medical Tourism is the right decision for them and their family.
REL: We have been proponents of Medical Tourism for two decades now, long before it became a common topic of discussion. Do you find that people still balk at the idea of traveling to a foreign country to receive medical care?
PM: Yes, unfortunately they do. People don’t realize that many of the medical facilities we use are JCI Accredited. The Joint Commission International Accreditation is the same governing body that regulates and accredits over 19,000 North American hospitals. So, the level of service that our patients receive is the same or even better quality than they would receive in their home country.
REL: What do you find to be the biggest fear that prevents people from utilizing Medical Tourism?
PM: I think it differs from patient to patient. Many people have never traveled or been in a foreign country before and that alone scares them. Our job is to educate people and to give them the facts so that they can make up their own mind if it is right for them.
REL: How do you counter those fears?
PM: We counter their fears by showing them testimonials, doctor CVs, and even a personal Skype call with the surgeon whom they are looking at using. We want to alleviate any fear that they may have. It can be difficult because there is a lot of anxiety anyway when thinking of having surgery of any sort. Adding the fact that they will be going away from their home country is just too much for some people.
Is it right for everyone? No. I think you have to have an open mind and weigh all of the options presented to make sure it is the right decision for you and your family.
REL: What services does Passport Medical offer?
PM: We try to make the process effortless for our patients. We try to think of every little detail so they don’t have to. One of the things we do is source out medical complications insurance. Many people think just buying travel insurance is enough. That is a big mistake because it doesn’t cover you for any complications should they arise, which is seldom, but it is best to be prepared for its minimal cost that gives you great protection and piece of mind.
Our packages are very comprehensive as you can see below:
We offer an on the ground concierge service that includes the following:
- Airport transfers (pick-up and drop-off)
- All the ground transfers for medical/dental appointments
- Personal bilingual patient concierge
- Pre-op appointments (lab work, cardio evaluation, x-rays if needed)
- Surgeons fees
- Compression garments (if Needed)
- Post-op revisions (if needed)
- Daily nurse visits to the hotel (if procedure calls for it)
So as you can see our packages are very stress-free. Once you book till the time you come back home every aspect of the trip is taken into consideration.
There are many beautiful things to see in the destinations that we deal with; however, it is important to remember the real reason for the trip is a medical one and that rest and relaxation is the best medicine for a quick recovery.
REL: What makes you different than other Medical Concierge sites that offer Medical Tourism services?
PM: I think our personalized approach is definitely something that sets us apart. All of our correspondence is individually sent out to our patients. There are no form letters or auto responders from us. We specifically tailor each patient’s experience to that which they have chosen.
We are one of the only medical tourism companies that has a claims free record with the BBB, which we are very proud of. Another thing are our relationships with our doctors and support staff whom we deal with in the destination points where we do business. We could not provide the service we do without these relationships.
There are other companies out there that offer 20 or more destinations and over a hundred procedures. We think it is so important to know your doctors and to know them well. In our opinion, it is next to impossible to have a personal relationship with so many different doctors. Patients are looking for information on which to base their decision and knowing the surgeon personally really helps. So that is why we deal with a select few and only a handful of destinations. Primarily we deal with Cancun, Costa Rica, and a bit in Panama and Taiwan.
REL: Tell us a little about the staff of doctors with whom you work. Do they speak English? Where have they been trained? Does a patient need to speak Spanish or any other language in order to take advantage of the medical services you offer?
PM: We have a great selection of doctors and surgeons in our network that we have personally met and vetted for our patients. All of the doctors we use speak excellent English and are easy to communicate with, when it comes to a medical procedure, you want to make sure you’re able to communicate with your caregiver. Many of our doctors have trained in the US or UK, and many are even US board certified.
REL: What role does the patient’s primary care physician play?
PM: That is left up to the individual patient. Some involve them others do not. It is just a personal preference. In some cases where their primary physician or dentist cannot help them due to cost or wait time to have a procedure like a hip and knee replacement they actually have referred their patients to us.
REL: What about the hospitals that you utilize in your business? You know that people will ask if they are of similar quality that they can find in the States or Canada.
PM: Yes, that is the most common misconception that the hospitals or clinics are not first world equipped. Let me tell you, the hospitals we use in our network are state-of-the-art and rival any hospital in the US or Canada. Many of the facilities we use are JCI accredited, like I had mentioned previously. This brings a certain amount of security to making your decision to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Once our patients see the hospital, doctors and nurses, they feel very well taken care of, and the anxiety has been removed.
REL: What makes your team of doctors and hospitals different than what someone may find “back home?”
PM: I would say that the biggest difference would be the personalized care. All of our doctors and surgeons give you their personal cell number. So if you feel that something isn’t right, you can call them personally, and they will come to visit you and assess the situation. In my experience, this has worked very well to alleviate any situations that the patient may be facing. Another big difference is the support staff. Depending on the procedure, you either have one or two registered nurses attending to you. This is not always the case in our hospitals in North America, many times there is one registered nurse and the others are nursing assistants. So, as I said the personalized service is what sets these hospitals apart from the ones back home.
REL: What is included in the prices you quote? Are there any hidden fees? I don’t think people would welcome surprises like that. Do you have payment plans or must patients pay up front?
PM: In our pricing and packages we try to think of every little detail so the patient can concentrate on healing and recuperating. There are no hidden fees; however, I tell our patients that with any medical procedure there can be things arise that are not part of the original package. As long as the patient is aware of this possibility then they are fine with that unlikely possibility.
Something that has been very popular is the medical procedure financing. We have a finance company for US patients and another for financing Canadian patients. They are an easy application process and you get an answer usually the same day, if not immediately.
If patients do not elect financing then most procedures are required to be paid for in full before leaving your home country. We have found this to be the standard in the industry, and people have been very accepting of it.
REL: What sort of medical procedures are provided through Passport Medical?
PM: Currently, we offer five areas to help patients:
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery
- Orthopedic Surgery
- Dental Tourism
- CCSVI Treatment for MS Patients
REL: Who does follow up care? What happens if “something goes wrong?” Do your doctors work with the doctors of the patient back in their home country?
PM: All of our patients leave to go back home with all of their medical records and what has been performed while away. Many times the doctor and patient keep in touch and the doctor follow up via email or a quick telephone call. Once again it all depends on the procedure and the desire of the patient to stay in touch with the doctor or not.
REL: Does someone stay in the hospital after their procedure or do you offer a place for recuperation? What if a spouse or other loved one wants to accompany the patient? Where do they stay?
PM: Many procedures require overnight stays in the hospital such as orthopedic surgery. If an overnight stay is required, then the patient can have one family member or friend stay with them in the hospital room. These hospitals take this into account and most have a pull out sofa bed for a loved one to stay with the patient. Some even have a suite attached to the room, which is like a separate living area.
REL: What is the patient’s responsibility in receiving this medical care in a foreign country?
PM: I think it is up to the patient to do their research. I’m amazed at the knowledge of our patients whom we send to be treated. They are very familiar with what they want and what will be performed as part of the procedure itself. It is also a great idea to research the destination that you will be traveling to, like finding out what the local currency is. What vaccinations may I need? What sight seeing is recommended and will I be able to fit that into my schedule?
With that said, I remind our patients that their primary purpose is a medical one, and their results may suffer if not relaxing and recuperating like the doctor has requested. So I tell our patients that if they are wanting to sight see the beautiful destination, to, maybe go a week or few days early and do it before the medical part of the trip.
REL: If someone is interested in your services or would like to know more, how can they contact you?
PM: If you would like to know more about our services, destination, or doctors we deal with then you can call us at 1-800-721-4445, visit our website at www.passportmedical.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
Let us know your expectations, and we will strive to surpass them. We look forward to creating a stress-free medical travel experience.
We at Retire Early Lifestyle would like to thank Travis for his time and willingness to share his insight and professional opinion on the topic of Medical Tourism.
By Billy and Akaisha Kaderli. Billy and Akaisha are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.