Thailand Hospitals: A Misdiagnosis, an MRI and the Cost Breakdown
When we made this move to Thailand, we raved to our friends and family back home about how great and inexpensive healthcare in Thailand is (or can be), yet we hadn’t actually had the opportunity to experience it for ourselves. Charlie took a trip to Sriphat Hospital in Chiang Mai with his uncle last year and documented it on video as you may recall (see below). And all went just peachy. But then I came down with a case of strep throat my last days in Penang, Malaysia and it was time for me to pay the doctor a visit and things didn’t go as well…
Misdiagnosis at Sriphat Medical Clinic
I’m no doctor but I’ve dealt with strep throat more than a few times in my life. I can recognize the systems – sore throat with white patches, fever, chills, achy body, swollen lymph nodes. A common treatment is Penicillin and since I happen to be allergic, I decided it best that I visit a doctor, do a throat culture and have them prescribe me something. Since Charlie had visited the clinic at Sriphat with his uncle and was familiar with it, I painfully dragged myself out of bed and we made our way to the hospital. I hadn’t eaten anything which I knew was a mistake because I was taking Tylenol for the fever. I was starting to feel nauseous in the waiting room and then the doctor called us back. It wasn’t the same one Charlie’s uncle had seen but he seemed to speak decent English. I showed him my throat, told him my symptoms and that I thought I had strep throat and asked if we could do a culture. His response was that since I do not have a fever now, I should go home and get rest and if I still feel bad then come back the next day and we could do then do a culture (this is after he told me that it would take a day for the results). I reminded him that I had taken Tylenol which is why I did not have a fever now but that I had already been sick for 2 days with a high fever, I have white patches on my throat, can hardly swallow and that is why I came to see him that day. He seemed unsure what to do at that point and had me stand up to do a series of tests similar to that of a DUI test (walk a straight line, stand on one leg, etc.). At this point the nausea took over and I made a beeline for the trash can. After emptying my stomach in his trash bin, he suggested that I could be pregnant (obviously due to the nausea) or that I might be having some other gastro problems (yes even after seeing my throat and the 103 fever). He decided it was best to refer me to a Gastro specialist.
Completely annoyed, in tons of pain and ready to just get back to my bed, we decided to meet the van they had waiting for us downstairs to drive us over to the older Sriphat Hospital building where I would meet with a GI doctor. Obviously, it was not a GI problem I was having, but we were just hoping we could talk to someone there that understood what was happening. We walked into the hospital and our eyes bulged out of our heads. I’ve never seen so many sick people in wheelchairs and on stretchers in my life. The place was completely flooded with people, hundreds of people. It was outdated and the smells were so terrible. Charlie was having a panic attack just being there (he doesn’t do well in hospitals) and I was frantically looking for the nearest trash bin. To make matters worse, the queue was so long it would have been hours before seeing a doctor and I wasn’t even going to be seeing the right doctor. There was no way I could have made it. Actually, there was no way we could have made it. We took one look around and got the hell out. I ended up getting some Cipro from a local pharmacy and sleeping it off for the next few days. The whole experience had me re-thinking healthcare in Thailand. I’m still having nightmares about that place…
MRI at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital
For those that know me well, you know I’ve been dealing with migraines for the better part of my life. One thing I love about being in Thailand is being able to get my medication freely from the pharmacy without a prescription for a fraction of the cost that I paid in the States. In fact, sometimes I question ever leaving Thailand due to this fact. But I’m still determined to get to the root of the problem because I really hate having to take any medication. Almost 10 years ago, I went through the steps of meeting with a Neurologist and having an MRI, and while the MRI came back fine, I was diagnosed with “common migraines” and never really got on any sort of treatment plan for them. Since they’ve worsened over the years and healthcare is so much more affordable in Thailand, its something I’ve been meaning to do while here. I’ve been putting it off for over a year and I completely wrote it off after my visit to Sriphat Hospital. That is until just two weeks after visiting Sriphat I had an episode that scared the crap out of me and I was ready to bite the bullet. I woke up one morning and while reading over my emails, my vision went blurry and then I lost peripheral vision in one eye for about 30 minutes. This had never happened before and I completely freaked out. I wasn’t really sure where to start, but I had seen many foreigners in Chiang Mai rave about this Dr. Morgan, a general physician and I figured she could give me some guidance. I was immediately glad I made that decision. She spoke perfect English and it was obvious she knew her stuff and understood what was going on. We decided to start with blood work and then she agreed that I should get an MRI to make sure there wasn’t something else going on.
What first impressed me was that they took blood right then and there and the results were to me that very afternoon by email. She called and made the appointment for the MRI which was to be the following morning at 8:30 am at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital, a private hospital and one of the nicer options in Chiang Mai. We showed up to the hospital around 8:10 am the next morning, got registered and was taken back for the MRI by 8:30 am. At 9:15 am, I was finished and the results were in my hand. Dr. Morgan had suggested two neurologists at the hospital and it was up to me to go with my results whenever I wanted, no appointment necessary. We decided to go ahead and see him while we were there. We went back to registration and were given a number to queue so they could check my vitals. We waited 20-25 minutes, they checked my height, weight, fever and blood pressure and then gave me another number to queue for the neurologist. Not even 5 minutes later I saw the doctor. We had to queue again to check out and pay and then pick up my prescriptions. By 11:30 am we were leaving the hospital. Just barely over 3 hours for everything.
The neurologist I met with reinstated my faith in Thailand healthcare. He was very knowledgeable, spoke perfect English and answered all of my questions with confidence. I feel good about his treatment plan and I’m very happy I finally bit the bullet and went. Overall, Chiang Mai Ram was a very nice and efficient hospital, although the X-ray area did appear quite a bit outdated. We were able to get by pretty easily speaking English and the prices were insanely affordable compared to US healthcare. The costs of prescriptions were also a fraction of the cost they are in the US, however, more expensive than other pharmacies in Chiang Mai. We went ahead and got my prescriptions there, but took them to our usual pharmacy in the old city and found a month’s supply was approx 200 baht cheaper than the hospital.
Want to see what the hospital looks like inside?? And what I look like in hospital attire?? Check out the video and then scroll down for the cost breakdown 😉
Thailand Healthcare Cost Breakdown
Note that these are fees without any insurance. By comparison, a typical doctors visit here is equivalent or less than most people’s copay in the States. On average, an MRI in the States runs at about $2600 before insurance kicks in. My first MRI my parents paid $1200 out of pocket with insurance. And while most insurance covers blood work fees (or the majority of them), the costs of mine are much less than most Americans monthly insurance premium. Just some food for thought. From now on, I will go straight to Dr. Morgan for any non-emergency medical needs and Chiang Mai Ram is my hospital of choice in Chiang Mai.
|Clinic/Doctor Consult Fee||360 baht / 11 USD|
Dr. Morgan/Health Care Medical Clinic
|Dr Morgan Consult Fee||350 baht / 11 USD|
|Dr. Morgan/Blood Panel Fees||2135 baht / 65 USD|
|Total||2485 baht / 76 USD|
Chiang Mai Ram
|MRI w/o Contrast||9600 baht / 294 USD|
|Neurologist Consult Fee/Diagnosis||500 baht / 15 USD|
|Total||10,100 baht / 310 USD|
*If viewing on a mobile, flip your device horizontally to view full pricing table