This week in Thailand, I had a minor medical issue for which I wanted to consult a professional. I walked to see the local nurse, who practices out of a storefront. I don’t know her qualifications. She speaks some English. I told her my symptoms. She asked me a few questions, and then she told me I needed an antibiotic. She explained why my particular symptoms merited an antibiotic. She asked me if I had any drug allergies, and I told her no. She did not create a file; she did not even ask me my name. She gave me the appropriate antibiotic and charged me 200 baht. This is the equivalent of roughly $5 U.S. That’s $5 total, for both consultation and medicine. The next day as I was walking past her store, she hailed me and asked me if I were better. Yes, I was. Thank you!
Last summer in the USA, I developed a very minor medical issue for which I wanted to consult a professional. There are no nurses practicing out of storefronts for minor medical issues! Instead, I made an appointment with a physician who was board certified in Family Practice. Since it was my first appointment with that particular doctor, I had to wait a few days, until there was room in the schedule for a new patient. At the appointed hour, I showed up; but I had forgotten my wallet, which contained both my cash and my insurance information. Although I told them I could bring payment before their office closed for the day, they refused to send me back to see the doctor until I could produce some form of monetary deposit. Because I had no money on my person, I had to reschedule, get the money, then come back and wait again. The doctor I originally had planned to see was no longer available for that day, so I agreed to see a different doctor. Once I was called back, a nurse recorded my weight, height, temperature, blood pressure, medications taking, allergies, and symptoms. She put all this information in a chart. The nurse then took me back to a private room in a very expensive building, where the doctor spoke with me about my symptoms. She looked in my throat and ears, etc. She told me I needed an antibiotic. She explained to me why my particular symptoms merited an antibiotic. She asked me again if I had any drug allergies, and I told her no. Everything is now written in my file, including my insurance information which is in its special place on the front page. For this office visit, I paid a $25 U.S. “copay.” My insurance company was billed for an additional $140 or so (though through some agreement they only paid about $90). This cost did not include the antibiotic prescription, which I had filled at a pharmacy. I don’t remember the cost of the antibiotic.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, in describing the differences in medical practices – and costs – in different countries.