Medical tourism…

Thailand Medical TourismDr. Michael J. O’Connell, New Hampshire commented that Morgan Spurlock, roving special reporter for CNN, recently spent a great deal of time and resources exploring “medical tourism” in Thailand.  Turns out it was less an investigation and more an anecdote reporting on his single personal experience.

Spurlock embedded himself as a patient at a large hospital there.  A wealthy US developer has created a slick niche system which as Morgan discovered provides high quality focused care, easy access (once you have flown to Thailand), but of course cash only.  The hospital targets upper middle class Americans who may have no insurance by design, or high deductible insurance (as with Obamacare and catastrophic policies).  Morgan sprinkles his piece with repeated price comparisons between this Thai facility and those same services if one paid cash in the US.  He undergoes a colonoscopy using a ‘swallowed’ camera, fairly extensive blood work, EKG and an MRI.  For every service, the Thai price is considerably lower, and Morgan’s workup is all benign.

This piece is grossly unfair for several reasons:

  1. Those insured by more typical low deduct policies in this country could access these services at a US hospital for far less than the ‘cash price’ he indicated in Thailand.
  2. He doesn’t compute the risk of flying to Thailand – not inconsequential.
  3. The swallowed camera ‘colonoscopy’ technique is available in the US, but is seldom done here (except on unhealthy patients) since many scientific studies indicate that it misses many polyps. And of course if a polyp is found, it cannot be biopsied or removed; a colonoscopy is therefore eventually needed.
  4. What would have happened if something had gone awry in the course of his care? What if Morgan had suffered a heart attack?  Does this hospital have cardiac services, stenting or bypass grafting?  Simply a CCU?

This unfortunately simplistic and naive piece on medical tourism should not serve to discourage such competition, but rather encourage a fair and detailed analysis of that competition.  Else Morgan Spurlock could be accused of mimicking that famously unscrupulous ‘documentarian,’ Michael Moore.

About Dr. Michael J. O'Connell, New Hampshire
Dr. Michael J. O'Connell of Barrington, New Hampshire, has forged a distinguished career spanning over three decades, as entrepreneur, physician, businessman, philanthropist and healthcare consultant. As former owner, administrator and CEO of a 225+ employee multi-specialty medical practice, Dr. O'Connell has dedicated his entire professional life to helping patients with family medicine and especially those experiencing chronic pain and all aspects of addiction. Since selling his family of healthcare businesses, he has never once contemplated retirement despite his rich and fulfilling journey, but instead has turned his focus to consulting in an industry starved for courage and creativity. Having weathered many political, technological and legal challenges, there is hardly a storm he has not confronted, a tempest he has not quelled, an urgent need he has not met. While the talking heads and self-proclaimed experts in the field have assumed the conventions and standards of the times, Dr. O'Connell does not believe in merely reflecting the herd mentality, but rather in leading the charge. Eschewing political correctness, Dr. O'Connell says and does what needs saying and doing, and not what the mindless masses expect. In addition to the continual education afforded by his variegated life experiences, Dr O'Connell earned his BS in Biochemistry at the University of NH in 1975, his Medical Degree from Dartmouth College in 1981, interned at Walter Reed Medical Center in 1982, Residency/Fellowship at UCSF in1986, and finished his Masters in Healthcare Administration at UNH in 1995. Dr. O’Connell enjoys many outdoor activities, including rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking, and golf. Through the decades Dr. O'Connell has supported many non-profit charities to include the St. Charles Home in Rochester NH, the Tri City VNA and Hospice, Hyder House, and Cocheco Valley Humane Society. To the latter organization alone Dr. O'Connell has donated over $180,000 and pledged another $250,000 in the “Bring-Us-Home” campaign for a new building. His “Matching Donations Christmas drive” has generated over $175,000 in charitable giving from the community. In addition Dr. O'Connell has participated in many dozens of other volunteer and donation efforts locally as well as in Africa and the Dominican Republic. For a listing of how I gave back to the community during my career and continue to do see:

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