You need an operation. It may be elective, like a new nose, a procedure your insurer doesn't think you need but you want, like a new knee, or a medical necessity like a kidney transplant. Wallet in hand, the world is your oyster. But efficiently finding the best place to buy that oyster is hellishly difficult, not least because different countries have different languages.
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Archimedicx, a U.S.-based startup that does R&D in Israel, invented a search engine to find you the best place (within its database) to solve your medical issue.
Available in nine languages (the default will always be the country's local language), users don’t need to log in. They just go to the archimedicx.com site, where the first field simply asks what's wrong – "Enter your medical condition or required procedure."
As you start typing in your problem, the software will suggest solutions. Typing in "hi" for instance will bring up a smart list of possibilities, starting with "partial hip replacement".
You choose the solution that describes your problem, if it's there. The site then opens a page where you enter a list of parameters, including the tolerable price range, the earliest availability, the location of the hospital (from worldwide to specific), your age and the language you speak. Clicking on "More filters" merely adds "food options," an intriguing choice for the kashrut adherents among us.
Assuming your problem is one of the 200 (so far) that the site recognizes and can handle, so far, the software will produce the solutions for you based on your choices from a database of over 1,800 clinical centers, including over 300 hospitals, around the world. The company hopes to have some 1,000 hospitals in six months' time.
The database, says the company, is being developed by a team sitting in Belgium.
The output of possible venues for your procedure will cite putative cost, waiting time, and helpfully lists accreditations.
The need for a convenient comparison tool is acute. Worldwide medical tourism market is huge and has been growing like a weed – by as much as 25% a year, says Archimedicx, which was founded by Moni Milchman. The company also says that 56% of surfers for medical information in the United States (in 2014) for information about hospitals and other medical facilities.
How reliable is the company's output? Its methodology is certified by HIMSS Europe, a subsidiary of HIMSS International, a global, nonprofit promoting on better health through information technology, Archimedicx says.
Israel is both a target for medical tourism, and a source. With its advanced facilities and technology, Israel is a popular venue for fertilization treatments, and Israelis travel overseas for certain surgeries not available in Israel. Since Israel has the kind of universal coverage that Barack Obama dreamed of bringing to America, Israelis might be reluctant to cover an operation abroad out of pocket, though. (It also bears airing one potential risk involved in medical tourism – the possibility of winding up undergoing unnecessary, or unhelpful, procedures.)
A few caveats. Archimedicx's product is automated and hence unbiased – but it's essentially a search engine for people with means who can afford to indulge in medical tourism. Good luck going to your insurer and persuading it to cover discount bodily enhancements or removals in another country that happens to have gorgeous beaches too.
Also, many of these best-of-breed hospitals are in the United States, so this site is keenly relevant to the rest of the world but perhaps less so to them. However, as Americans (still) don't have universal health coverage and some do wind up seeking cheaper alternatives abroad, the site remains relevant to them too.
Which brings us to a third caveat – who pays. The service is free of charge for patients, with the exception of the United States.
Due to local regulation, American patients using Archimedicx pay fees. However, under arrangements reached between Archimedicx and hospitals, the company claims, American patients get a good deal: their payment to the hospital is discounted versus the amount they'd have paid if they'd reached the hospital directly.