Are you approaching retirement with visions of your spouse and you traveling to the far corners of the earth? Or perhaps even retiring to a faraway beach bungalow?
Before you pack, consider the American tourist who recently found himself doubled over with abdominal pain in a rural clinic outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It turns out he had a perforated ulcer, a potentially fatal problem if not operated on quickly by a skilled surgeon.
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Luckily, the tourist's medical insurer was Radnor, Pa.-based HTH Worldwide, a leader in overseas health care coverage. The company promptly organized a medical evacuation to Bangkok. The American was successfully operated on in Thailand and then shipped home to Washington. D.C. Total cost to HTH Worldwide: $86,000.
Bottom line: Prior to heading off to see the world, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the globe's centers of medical excellence on the off chance you or a traveling companion will need one.
That's why Forbes asked HTH Worldwide to provide us with a list of the top-ranked hospitals in popular retirement and travel destinations. To do so, HTH tapped into its global network of 5,500 English-speaking, top-quality doctors. All hospitals in our slideshow are facilities of choice for patients medically evacuated from countries with substandard health care.
A few surprises will be of particular interest to Asian travelers and residents. "Thailand has made significant investments in health care these last six years, mostly to the benefit of medical tourists," says Andrew Wilson, chief executive of April Medibroker, an Internet-based broker in the U.K. that locates global coverage for international travelers and ex-pats.
Americans often run into problems with Japanese doctors, who are easily affronted by patients asking Western-style questions, believing the patient does not trust their expertise, says Brendan Sharkey, director of individual products at HTH Worldwide. Hong Kong, meanwhile, is rapidly approaching the U.S. in an undesirable way--the cost of its health care.
Where to go? Thailand, in short, is today among the best places in Asia for top-rate hospital care at reasonable prices. Surgical fees for an appendectomy there range between $180 and $740; in Australia, a surgeon performing the same operation charges between $380 and $2,150.
In the Americas, Mexico's private health care facilities have made huge improvements in the last five to 10 years. Angeles Group, Star Medica and Christus Muguerza have been consolidating hospitals and generally raising medical standards in Mexico. ABC Hospital in Mexico City is still considered by many to be the top medical facility in the country.
If you fall seriously ill in the Middle East or Africa, your safest bet is probably to get medically evacuated to Europe. There, the standard-bearers at the top of the list, London, Paris and Zurich, are getting competition from quality private clinics in Austria. Among them are Privatklinik Döbling, Wiener Privatklinik, Goldenes Kreuz Privatklinik and the Rudolfinerhaus.
"We do a lot of evacuations from Eastern Europe to Vienna. It has high-quality care and good flight connections," says Sharkey.