Desperation, money drive patients abroad

By Guo Ying ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-11-14 08:23:02

"We have adopted several measures to facilitate Chinese patients. The international center website is translated into Chinese and we have added another Chinese international patient assistant to our staff. We are also working on an international patient video in Chinese for patients...," Coleman says.

Sometimes the patients' families want the doctor to keep a cancer diagnosis secret from the patient, says Zhuang Meiling, an international patient assistant at MDACC.

"But we find it hard to accommodate that request and describe the treatment needed. The oncology treatments usually cost a lot of money and some patients' expectations are not realistic. We hope the patients are well aware that cancer is a natural process and even MDACC cannot always cure it."

The Mayo Clinic set up a referral office in China in August, through which Chinese patients can get a second opinion or make a quick appointment to see if the doctor suggests further treatment in the United States.

Cai considers treatment abroad a niche market and only for a tiny proportion of the super rich. It offers a possible solution, but is not suitable for every patient.

"First and foremost, the patient must be able to afford it; then they should be fit enough to travel a long way. They should adjust their expectations and be aware that there is no guarantee of a cure," Cai says.

A rising number of consulting firms have expanded ambitiously to meet the growing market, but some exaggerate the treatment effects and charge a lot. Some firms are less competent in medical records preparation, which can delay treatment.

"Treatment abroad is still in its infancy in China. With more firms joining, there is a need for service standards or regulations. The patients' rights need better protection," Cai says.

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