How far would you travel for the best health care at the best price? We've shown you how patients from Tampa Bay travel internationally to get low-cost procedures. Many of those connections are made online.
But we discovered a counter to that trend. It's called "reverse medical tourism" and it is drawing patients from all over the world.
Daniel Wisniak is one of those patients. He's visiting the Tampa Bay area from Israel, in hopes of correcting a medical condition revealed in a blood test three years ago.
Doctors in Israel found Daniel had a parathyroid tumor. It's not cancerous, but can eat away at bones, cause pain, fatigue and memory problems. Daniel wanted the tumor removed; his doctors wanted to wait.
"I said listen my friend, this is the end of the line for me. I've had three years of this. Enough is enough," Daniel says. "I was not willing to wait any longer, I've wasted three year in very bad physical feeling."
Daniel looked online for a new direction, and that search led him right here, to Tampa General Hospital.
TGH is home to a Parathyroid Specialty Center where doctors perform 25,000 surgeries a year -- 20 times more than any other hospital in the world.
On his YouTube page, Dr. James Norman explains the entire process, down to the driving directions. Daniel watched the video before heading into surgery, which we were allowed to observe.
"We try and make his incision pretty small here an inch or inch and a half," Dr. Norman explains. "He's had some ten or twelve ultrasounds -- five or six cat scans -- and a whole bunch of MRIs and all sorts of other things, and he didn't need a scan. All he needed was a knife."
While big facilities like the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins have an international edge, niche surgeons in our own backyard are attracting patients from as far away as Singapore.
"I've got some fat deposits kind of on my cheekbone here and I've got some loose skin with wrinkling, prematurely, which I'd like to have tightened," explains Emma Claxton.
The 31-year-old traveled to Tampa Bay to take years off her under eye area.
"I'm sick of people saying to me you should get some sleep. I'd like to have a day where I look in the mirror and don't go grrrrrrr," she says.
Her online search led her 30 flight-hours away to Dr. Adam Scheiner. His international reach began accidentally.
"In my case, I wrote a book chapter on this concept of festoons and they said, could you put together a video?" explains Dr. Scheiner. "So I uploaded it and put it on YouTube for the editors to see and within a day it was all over the internet."
These days, 80 percent of his patients travel for his medical care. Because they're away from home, Dr. Scheiner's office makes lodging arrangements.
"I thought it was going to start with one room a month and here we are," explains Christina Overstreet of Sailport Suites. Thanks to visiting patients, she's booked an extra 350 rooms a year. She's now seeking to partner with other doctors.
Insurance paid for Daniel's surgery, however Emma's cosmetic procedure was out-of-pocket.
If you're considering traveling for surgery, experts suggest doing your homework first. Make sure any online communication between you and the doctor is encrypted for privacy, and secure before sending any money.
They also suggest arranging for medical care at home, should there be any issue with the procedure during or after your trip.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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