Conquering the Spinal Surgery Waitlist in Canada With Medical Tourism

June 26, 2023

When you’re dealing with a spine issue requiring treatment or surgery, the last thing you want is to be placed on an extensive waiting list. Unfortunately, Canada’s health care wait times make it difficult to receive medical services promptly.

Medical tourism is an increasingly popular health care solution for this reason. Worldwide, 12 to 14 million people travel abroad annually to receive medical treatment.

If you’re awaiting disc replacement surgery in Canada or another orthopedic treatment, medical tourism may be a viable option. The United States offers immediate treatment options for Canadians that need spine care. Learn about medical tourism and how it may benefit those seeking orthopedic services.

The Waitlist for Spinal Surgery in Canada

Canada’s health care system faces significant challenges in treating orthopedic conditions efficiently. In 2022, Canada’s average wait time between a referral by a general practitioner to a consultation with an orthopedic specialist was 16 weeks. From the orthopedic consultation appointment to receiving treatment, the average wait was 32.4 weeks or 48 weeks total to be treated, not to mention the wait to see the general practitioner.

Canadians also face substantial wait times for diagnostic imaging — 4.9 weeks for ultrasounds, 5.4 weeks for computed tomography (CT) scans and 10.6 weeks for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. 

In 2019, a woman in Alberta expected a six-month wait for scoliosis surgery but has been waiting for over two years. Across Canada’s 10 provinces, patients waited for 1,228,047 medical procedures in 2022.

For Canadian patients with critical orthopedic needs, excessive delays aren’t always an option. The longer they go without receiving treatment, the more their quality of life declines. Additionally, many patients can’t afford to miss work for long durations while they navigate a complex health care system. In many cases, long waiting times can put their lives at risk.

With the increasing wait times and cost of back surgery in Canada, residents experiencing orthopedic conditions in this country are considering alternative options.

A Solution: Medical Tourism

Medical tourism to the U.S. is about $5 billion or 400,000 patients annually. If you’re seeking an orthopedic surgeon in Toronto or another part of Canada but battling excessive downtimes for treatment, traveling to the U.S. for spine care may be the right option for you. Learn more about medical tourism and its benefits:

What Is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is the act of traveling to another country to receive health care. People pursue medical tourism for numerous reasons, such as:

  • Cost: A person may travel to another country for a medical procedure that’s more affordable in that area.
  • Unavailable care: If a certain treatment or procedure is unavailable or difficult to obtain in a person’s own country, they may travel elsewhere to receive it.
  • Surgeon Expertise: The United States surgeons are well known for medical training, innovation in surgical techniques and medical devices.  
  • Referrals: Recommendations from friends or family members might encourage someone to travel to a provider in another country.
  • Culture: A patient may prefer to receive medical care from a provider that shares their culture, language or values.

Some common treatments people undergo during medical tourism include:

  • Dental care.
  • Cancer treatment.
  • Fertility treatment.
  • Organ and tissue transplantation.
  • Cosmetic or noncosmetic surgery.

Benefits of Medical Tourism

Patients can experience several benefits by traveling internationally for medical treatment. These advantages may include the following:

  • Cost savings: Patients can save anywhere from 25%-90% in medical bills, depending on where they travel to and the type of treatment they receive.
  • Immediate service: Medical tourism enables quicker access to health care services. Patients with critical needs are often placed on a priority list.
  • High-quality care: The quality of services and treatment is paramount for medical tourists. There are many first-rate medical facilities and doctors worldwide, including in the U.S.
  • Insurance incentives: Some insurance providers have started covering medical tourism, as savings for the insured patient means savings for the insurance provider. Many of these companies have programs specifically for promoting safe medical tourism. Some even offer financial incentives such as medical bill discounts. Remember that most providers will only cover surgery performed in another country if it’s an emergency.
  • Travel opportunities: The chance to experience a new country is an extra perk of medical tourism. Though they’re visiting solely for health care purposes, medical tourists can make the most of their trip by sightseeing and participating in different activities, if their recovery allows it.

Why Patients Travel to Desert Institute for Spine Care

If you’re searching for high-quality orthopedic surgeons in Ottawa or another Canadian city and long wait times are interfering with your daily activities, responsibilities and life, turn to Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona.

Due to treatment delays and a lack of innovative procedures, many Canadians have traveled to DISC for orthopedic spine surgery. We can schedule patients within a one to three weeks. Here are some of the many reasons why patients choose us for spine treatment.

1. Elite Spine Surgeons

Our professionals have lectured and trained surgeons worldwide, often receiving patient referrals. Many of the spine surgeons we have trained seek our opinion for themselves when they suffer with spinal conditions. Many of the world’s elite athletes have come to DISC for surgery, and we serve as team spine surgeon for many professional sports teams. Additionally, they have extensively published clinical research and educational book chapters.

2. Medical Tourism Program

We’re pleased to offer medical travel options for your orthopedic care needs. DISC will coordinate your treatment from start to finish. Our team provides seamless appointment scheduling, working around patients’ schedules for travel. 

We can point you to nearby travel and hotel accommodations for an easier experience. We’ve accommodated patients from countries across the globe, including Canada, Australia, Europe, Brazil, China, France and Italy. 

3. Endoscopic Spine Surgery Expertise

Our surgeons developed the endoscopic surgery techniques and have extensive endoscopic spine experience having treated thousands of patients. Endoscopic spine surgery is our least invasive and most effective procedure that can relieve various complex spine conditions. 

This innovative technology allows us to operate more accurately and safely through a ¼ inch incision, the smallest in spine surgery. We can provide better outcomes for patients, such as a faster return to work and normal activities, reduced need for pain medication and improved quality of life.

4. Leaders in Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR)

DISC spine surgeons have been lead investigators in ADR clinical research trials for over 10 years. Patients travel from around the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world to seek their expert opinions and ADR surgery.

ADR surgery can help relieve pinched nerve pain from a damaged disc in the cervical spine. We replace the disc with a specialized implant, helping restore your spine’s natural motion. If you’re struggling to get the treatment you need in Canada, you can consult one of our professionals to learn more about this procedure or make an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment With DISC and Get Back to Living

If you’re struggling to find orthopedic care in Canada, our team at DISC can get you the treatment you need. We offer convenient virtual second opinions from the comfort of your home. DISC surgeons provide world-class spine care for many conditions, including bulging and herniated discsspinal stenosis and scoliosis

Whether you require traditional or minimally invasive spine surgery, we strive to offer customized and compassionate services to every patient that visits our facility — whether they’re a few blocks or thousands of miles away.

If you need an orthopedic surgeon in Montreal, Vancouver or another part of Canada, traveling to DISC may be the health care solution you’ve been looking for. Contact our center today to begin orthopedic treatment!

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