Yet, after exploring so-called medical tourism options in Thailand, India, Hungary and Dubai, I settled on nothing so exotic. With rates that rival overseas alternatives, Oklahoma City beckoned me. It seems it has become a medical tourism hot spot.
Granted, I wasn’t able to lounge on exotic beaches during my recuperation; instead, I toured a cowboy museum and the livestock market at Stockyards City. But the price was right.
Competitive fees at doctor-owned hospitals and the high quality of surgery are responsible for turning Oklahoma City into a health-care hub, said Richard Baker, founder of Timely Medical Alternatives. His firm, based in West Vancouver, B.C., brokers deals between U.S. hospitals and patients from the United States and Canada.
“Oklahoma City is very medically entrepreneurial,” said Baker, who has negotiated discount pricing with three hospitals in Oklahoma.
A number of hospitals around the United States are agreeing to negotiate discounts for routine but serious and expensive procedures being sought by the uninsured. In fact, Timely found me hospitals in four cities that would replace my right hip for less than $20,000: Oklahoma City; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Phoenix; and Auburn, Maine. Timely’s fee, paid by the hospital, is included in the price. As usual, the wise consumer checks hospital ratings and the experience of the surgeon.
Since Baker founded Timely Medical in 2003, he has referred 4,000 patients from 49 states and Canada to U.S. hospitals willing to negotiate prices with him, many of them in Oklahoma.
Baker said his U.S. clients typicially seek affordable surgery while his Canadian patients want to avoid long waits under their country’s government-controlled health-care system.
Baker and his clients are not alone in discovering Oklahoma as a medical tourism destination.
For example, ProCure Proton Therapy Center has partnered with the Integris Cancer Institute of Oklahoma to offer specialized cancer treatment. Today, about 30 percent of ProCure’s patients travel from other states and countries. Some come from as far away as Australia, Israel, Russia and Brazil, said Hadley Ford, ProCure’s chief executive.
While discount pricing is the big draw, high patient satisfaction also stands out, said Ford, who added that patients are impressed with the friendliness of the people they meet while recuperating.
I began my quest for a new hip with an online search using the keywords “uninsured,” “hip replacement” and “Hawaii.” I added “Hawaii” because I had read about a hospital there that performed hip replacement surgery on the uninsured at reduced rates and needed a reminder of the name.
Instead, I landed on the home page of Timely Medical.