CBS published a refreshing take on medical tourism – an article reviewing the pros and cons of traveling for medical care along with an interview with an American orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Claudette Lajam from New York University Langone Medical Center.
Video interview with Orthopedic Surgeon
While Dr. Lajam pretty much rejects any form of medical tourism – she made some excellent points in her interview. In the discussion, she stressed the need for facility AND provider verification. She also talked about the need for people to know specifics – and gives one of my favorite examples, “American trained”.
As she points out in the interview, this is a loose term that can be applied (accurately) to a Stanford educated surgeon like Dr. Juan Pablo Umana in Bogotá or in a more deceptive fashion to one of the many surgeons who have taken a short course, or attended a teaching conference within the United States. A three-day class doesn’t really equate, now does it?
The discussion (and the article) then turned to the need to ‘research’ providers.. Now, if only CBS news had talked to me.. That would have made for a more balanced, detailed and informative show for watchers/ readers.
(Telling people to ‘research’ their medical providers falls a bit short. Showing people how – or providing them with resources would be more helpful.)
“Off-label medical travel”
In addition, the print article should have gone a bit further in discussing the pros and potential consequences/ harmful effects of traveling for ‘off-label’ treatments instead of merely quoting one patient. Since the area of harm is actually far greater in this subsegment of the medical tourism population due to the amount of quackery as well as the sometimes fragile state of these potential patients – a bit more discussion or even a separate segment on “off-label medical travel” would have been an excellent accompaniment.
Speaking of which, several weeks ago, I interviewed with NPR (National Public Radio) as part of a segment on medical tourism. During that discussion we talked about all of the pluses and minuses mentioned on the CBS segment as well as the “Selling Hope” aspect of ‘off-label medical travel” and the potential harms of this practice, as well as some of the issues involved in transplant tourism. I am not sure how much of my interview, Andrew Fishman, the producer for the segment, will use – or when it will air, but I’ll keep readers informed.