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Medical tourism in Ukraine: who and why is seeking health inside the country

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Photo: Herbert II Timtim / Pixabay

Photo: Herbert II Timtim / Pixabay

Medical tourism refers to the planned, often combined with recreation, receiving medical assistance outside the region of residence. It can be domestic, inbound, and outbound. Domestic medical tourism is a trip to a specialized clinic in another city within the country for medical assistance.

For instance, Ukrainians can go to Odesa for vision correction surgery. And for endoprosthetics of the hip joint—to Kyiv.

Outbound medical tourism is receiving medical care outside the country. For example, to treat cancer, our citizens travel to Israel or Austria. For complex cardiac surgery—to Germany. Inbound medical tourism refers to receiving medical care by foreigners in Ukraine.

No wonder Ukrainians travel to other countries for treatment: high-class medical technologies and the best specialists are highly motivating, especially when it comes to life and death. Yes, most often it is very expensive, but health is not an item of expenditure on which it would be worth saving.

In addition to the treatment itself, you will have to pay for the paperwork, including visas, travel expenses, accommodation in a hotel or apartment, and possibly an interpreter. And also—medications, postoperative care, nutrition, the Internet, and so on.

All this burden falls on the patient's pocket if he or she does not qualify for funding under the state program. For instance, seriously wounded ATO participants were treated abroad.

You can organize such a trip yourself or contact one of the travel agencies that organize such tours.

If you are looking for such a clinic yourself, you should familiarize yourself with the information that is presented on the website of this clinic.

It is imperative to find out whether the clinic has been accredited, that is, an official verification of conformity of the offered services level with a mandatory standard was conducted; whether the institution has a license for the declared service; does this clinic collaborate with research centers and medical universities or companies that provide health services. When you choose a doctor, you should find out everything about his or her education and internship, check the availability of certificates (national and international), and membership in international medical communities.

It is also important to obtain information about health insurance. For example, whether the contract will prescribe compensation for damage caused to the patient—by mistake or negligence, and how much of this compensation.

The most frequent fields for outbound medical tourism in Ukraine are:

  • treatment of oncological diseases;
  • treatment of neurosurgical diseases and the consequences of trauma;
  • treatment of cardiac diseases;
  • organ transplant;
  • treatment of complex obstetric and gynecological diseases and assistance during childbirth;
  • plastic surgery.

It can also be useful to read the reviews of patients who were treated in this clinic, both positive and critical.

Who and why goes to Ukraine for medical assistance?

Firstly, representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in different countries of the world fly to Ukraine for medical services. Medical care in Ukraine is most often more accessible and cheaper, even in private clinics. And there is no language barrier to explain the symptoms and peculiarities of the disease. For comparison: dental prosthetics in Ukraine for an emigrant living in Australia turned out to be cheaper, even with a flight in both directions.

Secondly, foreigners from the CIS and Eastern Europe—Russia, Belarus, Moldova, and Bulgaria—visit our country for health improvement. Due to the simplification of the visa regime, patients come from Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, other EU countries, Turkey, Central Asia, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

What are the most popular fields? There are many of them:

  • dental procedures and prosthetics;
  • treatment of eye diseases, including surgical treatment of retinal detachment and cataracts;
  • plastic surgery;
  • rehabilitation of patients with problems of the musculoskeletal system after injuries and as a result of cerebral palsy in adults and children;
  • arthroplasty and rehabilitation after the surgery;
  • reproductive health. Ukraine has a fairly high level of artificial insemination services and there is no strict legislation in the field

Ukrainian clinics use three main models of attracting foreign patients:

  • The clinic directly invites patients and deals with issues of their attraction itself.
  • The institution works with agencies that, for a fee, are involved in attracting patients for it.
  • Foreign doctors send their patients to Ukrainian clinics for treatment, and mainly not for the sake of remuneration from the institution, but because this option will be more affordable for the patient.

According to the estimates of the Ukrainian Association of Medical Tourism, in 2018 more than 60 million medical tourists visited Ukraine, who spent over $150 million on medical services alone. Considering that they live in the country from 10 days to 3 weeks, and most often with an accompanying person or two, then this amount increases by one and a half to two times.

Turkey, for the past 10 years, has had a special state program to finance the construction of new clinics, the development and implementation of medical innovations, and doctors are being trained, including abroad.

In Ukraine, launching such a project and developing medical tourism has slowed down due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Perhaps, after vaccination in our country and in the world, it will be possible to return medical tourism to its former level.

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