Traveling for Surgery: Here’s What You Need to Know

Traveling for Surgery: Here’s What You Need to Know

Who should my surgeon be? How should I prepare for surgery? What is this surgery going to cost me? These are all questions you likely have when your doctor tells you that you need surgery. One question that many people don’t consider is “should I travel for surgery?”.

The answer will depend on several factors, including your overall health, what type of surgery you need, and how soon you’ll be able to travel home after your surgery. That being said, it can be beneficial to explore the option of traveling for surgery and talk to your care team about the choice that makes the most sense for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of traveling for surgery and which factors you should consider before making a decision.

Why should you travel for surgery?

While cursory research turns up a lot of information on international medical tourism, you don’t have to leave the U.S. to get affordable, high-quality surgery. Traveling to another city or state is often a more feasible option for most people. Carrum Health has built regional access to affordable, top-quality care so that most members we serve can find care within a few hours drive. If you live in a city where the cost of living is high, you may find that the surgery you need is thousands more than what you’d pay in a different city. On the flip side, if you live in a rural area, you may not have local access to the best surgeon for your needs.

Cost and access to top-quality surgeons are the two primary factors to consider when deciding if you should travel for surgery.

Traveling for surgery to see a top-quality surgeon

Choosing a surgeon can be unnecessarily complicated, but it’s an important decision that could impact the success of your surgery and your risk of surgery-related complications. Above all else, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a top-quality surgeon with experience performing the procedure you need.

Studies have correlations between the number of surgeries performed and numerous outcome measures. For example, for hip and knee replacements, one such study quantified the link with the duration of the hospital stay.

Hospital Volume of Patients: Total Knee Replacement (TKR), Total Hip Replacement (THR) Average stay TKR Average stay THR
TKR: 1-100
THR: 1-64
3.95 days 4.17 days
TKR: 101-197
THR: 65-123
 3.66 days 3.91 days
TKR: 198-293
THR: 124-224
3.77 days 3.86 days
TKR: ≥ 294
THR: ≥ 225
3.77 days 3.72 days

For bariatric surgeries, another study found that the complication rates decrease the more surgeries a doctor performs.

# of bariatric surgeries performed by physician over 3 years % of serious complications within 30 days of surgery
100 surgeries 3.8%
100 – 249 surgeries 2.4%
250 + surgeries 1.9%

Some questions to ask potential surgeons include:

  • How much experience does the surgeon have performing the procedure you need?
  • Is the surgeon board certified?
  • What are the surgeon’s success, failure, and complication rates?
  • Can you see reviews from other patients the surgeon has operated on?
  • What kind of postoperative care does the surgeon offer and/or recommend?

It’s important to select a surgeon based on these qualifications, first. Then, you can compare where each surgeon is located and decide with your care team which is the best fit for you and your needs.

Hospitals in rural areas of the United States may not be equipped to offer certain types of surgery, or they may not have surgeons with a specialty in the type of procedure you need. In these cases, talking to surgeons in a different part of your state (or in another state altogether) can be useful. Confidence in your surgeon’s experience and ability will go a long way toward giving you and your family peace of mind, even if that means having to travel to get the surgery.

Traveling for surgery due to medical costs

If you live in a city where medical costs for the surgery you need are high, seeing a surgeon in a lower cost state could make a big difference. There are several different costs to consider, including:

What type of surgery your insurance covers — While nearly all insurance plans cover nonelective procedures like cardiac surgery or a hip replacement, elective surgeries like bariatric procedures may not be covered. You can call your insurance plan to find out if the surgery you need is covered.

Your insurance deductible — The amount you pay for covered health care services before your insurance starts to pay.

Your co-pay — The amount you have to pay for care, in addition to what your insurance pays.

Your co-insurance — Even after you meet your deductible, some health plans require that you pay a percentage of the cost of care. Your insurance company will be able to give you this information.

How far you need to travel — If you are traveling for surgery, you’ll need to factor in the cost of travel. Your insurance plan is not likely to pay for this, so it’s smart to know ahead of time what it will cost to travel to your surgeon (and back home).

Whether you need cardiac, bariatric, spinal, hip, or knee surgery, you could be looking at costs that range from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It’s essential to have a good idea of what your total cost will be (including travel) for your surgery. These costs can be offset by using your Carrum Health benefit — we cover everything including:

  • Surgeon pre-op evaluation and consultation
  • Pre-op labs and testing within three days of procedure
  • All facility services admit to discharge (meaning everything from the time you’re admitted to the hospital to when you’re discharged)
  • All physician services admit to discharge
  • 30-day readmission warranty
  • Surgeon post-op follow-up
  • Carrum Care Concierge support

Other things to consider before traveling for surgery

You and your care team have a lot of big decisions to make, not the least of which is whether it makes sense for you to travel to have your surgery. Here are some additional questions you can discuss before making your decision.

  • When will I be able to travel home after surgery?
  • What postoperative care and support will be available to me once I return home?
  • Can a friend or family member travel with me to support and care for me before, during, and after surgery?
  • What happens if there are complications after I return home?
  • How will I check in with your surgeon after surgery?

Having the option to travel for surgery opens you up to an extraordinary amount of choices. More choices can mean more confusion, but Carrum Health has done the hard work of finding the highest quality surgeons for you, so all you have to do is decide which one is the best fit (we’ll help with that, too). Additionally, when using Carrum Health, you’ll be assigned a personal care concierge to provide comprehensive support and guidance throughout the process, including making all of your travel arrangements. All the quality, without any of the hassle. To get started, schedule a free consultation.