Why Can’t Health Care Be More Like Travel? Is Medical Tourism an Answer?

was unexpectedly in the emergency room of a hospital earlier today — and one of the few bright spots of being in that windowless room was not having to fight the crowds at the airport while dealing with increased security — as well as not having to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic as throngs of people travel on this day before the American Thanksgiving holiday of 2015.

Fortunately, the person with whom I accompanied to the emergency room earlier today is now back home — definitely something about which to be thankful for Thanksgiving…

Comparing Hospital Rooms to Hotel Rooms

…but as I sat in the emergency room at the hospital earlier today awaiting the results of all sorts of tests — including a computerized tomography scan — I was reminded of July of 2013 when I accompanied someone else to the emergency room of that same hospital before being transferred to a regular hospital room.

I once again thought about certain similarities between a hospital room and a hotel room — such as how the general layout of the room was similar, with a main area, a washroom and a closet. There was “room service” — although the food was not exactly gourmet. The person I accompanied had health insurance, so she was required to pay a co-pay — and the staff at the hospital ensured that the co-pay was indeed paid within the first hour or so after she was admitted — while she was still waiting to be brought into a vacant spot in the emergency room.

Aside from paying your room rate in advance to secure a bargain, could you imagine someone on the hotel staff knocking on your door not long after you checked in, demanding payment from you?…

…and you thought that the telephone call from the front desk asking if everything is all right was annoying.

Anyway, I have no idea how much that hospital room cost per day — but I had researched some rehabilitation facilities for the recovery of that person back to complete health. One place which made a seedy motel look like a luxury hotel commanded a minimum of $450.00 per day for a small private room with a shower.

To be fair, that rate included physical therapy and meals, among other things. I have not seen what the meals look like or taste like — but I can tell you that their smells lingered.

I do not get nauseous easily. That day was a rare exception.

If that room was $450.00 for the night, I can only imagine what the hospital room costs per night. Sure, there are doctors and nurses to tend to you 24 hours per day — when they are available, that is — but medications and medical supplies are usually not included in the “room rate”…

…not to mention that you do not earn frequent guest loyalty program points — unless you use an affiliate credit card to pay your co-pay and other hospital expenses.

What If a Hospital Room Was Like a Hotel Room?

I had often wondered if the recovery back to good health for the person with whom I accompanied to the hospital back in 2013 — who supposedly enjoyed travel — would have been speedier had that person been in a room at a luxury hotel with butler service while being waited on hand and foot; slept in a comfortable bed — not adjustable, I know; and dined on premium quality food.

Imagine if that hotel room — er…hospital room…was equipped with French doors leading to the beach— which is something that that person enjoyed — with the calming and relaxing sound of the roar of the ocean waves as they relentlessly pounded against the shore. Perhaps such a hospital room exists — but I am not aware of that if it is indeed true.

That person needed physical therapy while in that hospital room after laying in a bed for almost a week — but I was told that the physical therapist could only visit every other day due to a heavy workload. Medications were given which should never have been dispensed to that person in the first place. That person eventually developed a bed sore from being in that hospital bed for several consecutive days. There were other factors which angered and frustrated me about that stay at this particular hospital…

…factors which neither you nor I would even think of tolerating if we spent hundreds of dollars per night in a hotel room. If something or someone is not available when wanted or needed, that would usually be unacceptable with an exorbitant room rate in the lodging industry. Why does it seem to be acceptable in the medical profession?

Four Factors As to Why There are Problems in the Medical Profession

Without getting political here, I blame four factors — mostly dealing with the financial aspect which I believe is the impetus for the problems with which the medical profession is fraught:

  • Expensive drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, which claim that they need to recover their research and development costs
  • Tuition costs at medical institutions which are skyrocketing out of control despite the state of the economy
  • Health insurance companies which cite increasing treatment costs for their subscribers
  • Medical personnel who are squeezed by the increasing limitations and restrictions imposed on them

The Skyrocketing Cost of Health Care: Is Medical Tourism an Answer?

The one thing which seems to be healthy, however, is the almighty dollar on which they are all apparently profiting — but that is a debate for another time.

Meanwhile, the skyrocketing costs of health care have caused patients to look into medical tourism to save money. This topic has been discussed for years on FlyerTalk, as witnessed below:

Encouraging Preventative Health Care

FlyerTalk member choster read an article by The Economist about how to encourage preventative health care — something which needs to significantly increase, in my opinion — where “you earn points by exercising, buying healthy food or hitting certain targets; you rise through various levels, from blue to gold, as you accumulate points — rewards are adjusted to your starting level of fitness to give everybody a chance of making progress — and you are given a mixture of short-term and long-term rewards ranging from reduced premiums to exotic holidays.”

It is an interesting idea — one which could warrant further investigation — and certainly one which may interest other FlyerTalk members.


There is one thing about which I am certain: although the industries of travel and miles and points have not been viewed upon in a positive light recently, the health care industry and the concept of affordable medical care — at least in the United States — seem to be far worse.

This whole health care debacle — at least I believe it is a debacle — is one reason why I strive to prevent illness as much as possible.

Medical tourism could potentially be a viable solution where you can get quality medical care while traveling abroad while paying less money than for medical care within the United States. Unless you live near the border of another country, medical tourism is obviously not an option if immediate emergency care is necessary. Also, you must carefully research your options and ensure that you will get quality medical care, as the laws in some countries are not as stringent as the laws in others with regard to health care.

In the meantime, I am certainly not going to pretend that I have all of the answers — far from it, even though there are some thoughts I have which I believe merit trial. What do you think about the medical profession and health care as related to travel, miles and points — and how do you believe that it could be improved?

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