International physicians
Photo: Patients Beyond Borders
For most folks considering a medical trip abroad, finding Dr. Right is the most challenging step—and perhaps the most emotionally charged. Be sure to make the following initial inquiries, either of your health travel agent or the physicians you're interviewing. Note that for some of these questions, there's no right or wrong answer. Your initial round of inquiry will help establish a dialogue. If the doctor is evasive, hurried, frequently interrupted or if you can't understand his or her English, then either dig deeper or move on.
1. What are your credentials? Where did you receive your medical degree? Where was your internship? What types of continuing education workshops have you attended recently? 
The right international physician either has credentials posted on the Web or will be happy to e-mail you a complete résumé.

2. How many patients do you see each month?
Hopefully, more than 50 and less than 500. The physician who says "I don't know" should make you suspicious. Doctors should be in touch with their customer base and have such information readily available.

3. To what associations do you belong?
Any worthwhile physician or surgeon is a member of at least one medical association. Particularly in regions where formal accreditation is weak, your practitioner should be keeping good company with others in the field. For example, if you're seeking cosmetic surgery in Mexico, your surgeon should be a member of the Mexican Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery. It's also a plus to see physicians who are members of, or affiliated with, American medical or dental associations.

4. How many patients have you treated who have had my condition?
There's safety in numbers, and you'll want to know them. Find out how many general procedures your hospital has performed. Ask how many of your specific treatments for your specific condition your doctor has personally conducted. While numbers vary according to procedure, five cases are not good. Fifty or 200 are much better.

5. What are the fees for your initial consultation?
Answers will vary, and you should compare prices with other physicians you interview. Some consultations are free; some are deducted from the bill, should you choose to be treated by that physician; some are a straight, nonrefundable fee. In any event, it pays to have this information in advance.

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