What to Consider When Seeking
Medical Treatment in Vietnam
Healthcare in Vietnam isn’t necessarily “world class.” Many experienced expats and well-to-do Vietnamese will actually go to Thailand or Singapore for major medical procedures. With that said, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of competent doctors and hospitals that can provide good to excellent medical treatment in Vietnam. Most expats will probably not be ready for the overall experience, so we’ve put together this brief guide with things to consider when seeking medical treatment in Vietnam. Even for long term residents, some of these might surprise you.
Relatively Low Cost
Medical procedures in Vietnam are often much cheaper than they are in developed countries. The government has made it a point to keep medical costs down so that more people have access to medical care. Foreigners (Americans particularly) are usually pleasantly surprised at the affordability of medication and office visits. However, more serious medical procedures will still end up being quite expensive — in particular, specialist treatments like cancer or surgery on major organs.
Depending on which clinic or hospital you go to, medical costs often vary. Even within the same facility, the same procedure can carry a different price tag depending on which doctor you see, or whether you have insurance. Even if you’re insured, prices can still vary depending on whether you have “good insurance” or “bad insurance.” On top of that, there are certain medical facilities that are simply better than others, and thus charge more for their services.
Yes, medical costs are often negotiable in Vietnam. This is most often the case if you’re paying out of pocket, or if your insurance isn’t covering the full cost. If you do have insurance, make sure to bring all the necessary paperwork with you so that you can get the best possible price. In some situations, you might even be able to haggle for a discount on packaged medical procedures, or get a better room for the same price.
Be Prepared to Wait
One thing that foreigners often struggle with is the fact that appointments are often not necessary, but then waiting times can be quite long. This is particularly the case if you’re going to see a doctor at a public hospital. At private hospitals and clinics, appointments are often necessary but waiting times are still often long, especially if it’s your first visit, or if you’re using insurance from a company that the clinic or hospital isn’t familiar with.
Don't Expect Top-Shelf Customer Service
One thing to keep in mind is that, similar to more developed countries, medical staff here are overworked and underpaid, perhaps more so than most in vietnam. This means that they might not always be the friendliest or most helpful. In particular, staff at public hospitals are often quite gruff and may not have the best bedside manner. However, this isn’t always the case and you will often encounter medical staff that are kind and helpful. Just don’t expect it as a norm.
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The reality is that medical infrastructure in Vietnam isn’t always on par with developed countries. This means that medical facilities, equipment, and even medical staff might not be up to the same standards. In particular, medical facilities in rural areas are often quite basic and lack the same medical technology and equipment that you would find in major cities. Even in big cities, equipment, medication, or even expertise can be limited.
One thing to keep in mind is that, similar to medical facilities in rural areas, emergency rooms in Vietnam are often quite basic. Whether by design (to accommodate as many people as possible), or because of a lack of resources, medical staff in the ER are often not as well equipped to deal with major medical emergencies as you typically find in developed countries. This means that, if you have a medical emergency, your best bet for a low-stress experience is to go to a private hospital or clinic that is better equipped to deal with the situation.
Don’t underestimate the language barrier when you’re bleeding! Many, many healthcare personnel in Vietnam do speak basic English, but by no means all. If your language skills aren’t up to the task of explaining and understanding medical terms, bring someone to help if at all possible.
Getting medical treatment in Vietnam can be a bit of a challenge for foreigners. There are definitely some things to consider before, during, and after your visit. However, don’t let this dissuade you from getting the treatment that you need. Necessary medical attention shouldn’t be delayed because of money issues. Getting insurance is important, and we can definitely talk about that, but for the moment just remember that with a little bit of research and preparation, you can find good medical care in Vietnam.