Israel becomes a top stop for medical tourists

Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was voted one of the top 10 medical tourism sites in the world by Newsweek Magazine .Known for its sandy beaches, Mediterranean climate, holy sites and nightlife, Israel is now drawing tourists of another kind …

Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was voted one of the top 10 medical tourism sites in the world by Newsweek Magazine .Known for its sandy beaches, Mediterranean climate, holy sites and nightlife, Israel is now drawing tourists of another kind – medical tourists.

Instead of breaking the bank or mortgaging the house, Americans are finding Israel is the destination where they can get the best medical care in the world at a fraction of the cost.

Medical tourism is growing exponentially year-by-year and Israeli centers, such as Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, and the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, not only provide the same top-notch healthcare and state-of-the-art facilities as US centers, in some cases Israeli doctors are better.

“Almost 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance,” says Carol Emold, the nurse coordinator for the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. “If you are not insured, it’s cheaper to fly out here to Israel with your whole family than to get treatment in the States.”

Voted by Newsweek Magazine as one of the top 10 medical tourism sites in the world, the Sourasky Medical Center advertises directly to medical tourists through its website.

“We are the top 10 as of last October,” boasts Emold, whose center hosts hundreds of Americans each year. Some, like a morbidly obese Florida resident planned the trip to Israel in advance; others come in while vacationing in neighboring countries such as Jordan or Egypt.

“There is no way that people would want to be treated in Egypt,” says Emold, telling the story of how she recently admitted a woman who became sick in Egypt while on a boat trip around the world.

The center, which is equipped to treat any major or minor health concern, also gives care to military personnel and diplomats stationed in the region. As ISRAEL21c was interviewing Emold she was waiting for a call to accept a high-ranking American officer to the hospital’s emergency room.

“We do everything,” says Emold. “Basically all the medical care available at any tertiary medical care center, with some specialties in orthopedic oncology. In that area we are one of the few centers in the world. In gastrology, we are also a leader: one of our gastrologists invented Given Imaging’s diagnostic device. For male infertility, we are the best in Israel and among the leaders in world.”

Emold, originally from San Francisco, last year admitted a young American woman from Florida suffering from obesity. After a car accident at age 15, she couldn’t move well due to a spine injury. By 18 and no longer covered by her parent’s healthcare, the girl and her sister looked for treatment options. Florida doctors said she needed spinal surgery and that it would cost $25,000.

“They found us online and decided to come to us,” says Emold. “Our doctors determined that she did not need surgery. Instead, they did a special injection to her spine using CT, to the problematic area. She went back home a happy camper.”

Compared to thousands of dollars, the girl paid about $2,000 and avoided a risky invasive surgery.

So popular has Israel become as a medical tourism destination that its Tourism and Health Ministries have jointly produced a new English-language guide, Meditour, to highlight the medical tourism options in Israel.

According to the guide, Israel not only offers comparable treatment found elsewhere in developed nations, but in some cases, even better care. Israelis for example, have more experience and success in fertility treatments such as IVF, than in any other country, yet they charge less.

A single IVF treatment in the US can cost up to $20,000. In Israel the fees are about $3,250.

Israeli plastic surgeons are also famous for their excellent work and inexpensive surgery, compared to US rates. Beyond serious medical procedures, Israel also offers a number of therapeutic options, such as the healing spas in the Dead Sea region, known for treating skin disorders.

For comfort and convenience, many medical tourist facilities in Israel assign personal coordinators to support the “tourist” throughout their stay. They help the patient with scheduling, financial clearance, accommodation planning, and travel preparations.

Israel is home to a highly literate immigrant population able to converse fluently in languages such as English, Russian, French, and Arabic to help make the tourist feel more at home.

And once the treatment’s done, there are always the beaches in Eilat and Tel Aviv for recuperation.

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About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.