Dr. Google and Cyberchondriacs

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”~ Mark Twain

Without a doubt, the internet fundamentally alters all aspects of health care. Dr. Google has been my reliable internet physician since we moved to a small, isolated tropical island in Nicaragua. Online information empowers passive patients of the past, like ourselves,  where symptoms can be diagnosed with the click of a key, a bonanza of data appears instantly, and treatment options are dispensed freely.

Yet, sometimes, I feel like a cyberchondriac. I can find a wealth of worse-case scenarios for my symptoms, all leading to …You’re gonna die. If I have a sore throat…I’m going to die of throat cancer. Dr. Google diagnoses a minor stomach ache as an infestation of cyclosporiasis, the same rare parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis, that sickened 466 people in 15 states. I’m sure this must create a major new headache for doctors throughout the world. A bit of information can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve decided that the only way to cure cyberchondria is to have regular health check-ups with real doctors. Ron and I bought the Silver Plan health discount for Vivian Pellas hospital last year. Health Care for Expats in Nicaragua  Since we’ve had the health discount for over 6 months, we received a 30% discount for extensive health exams. So, we made an appointment with Arlen Perez at Vivian Pellas for our super-duper exams last week.

IMG_3368We arrived in Managua at 7:30 am. Within a few minutes, Arlen met us in the lobby with a printed schedule of our procedures for the day. She took us to the lab where we gave blood and other bodily fluid samples. Then, Arlen’s new medical tourism partner, Maite Soto, filled out a questionnaire for us in Spanish.

Maite spent the rest of the day with us, translating, attending meticulously to all of our needs, and taking us from lab to lab. After our blood samples, we had EKGs and stress tests on a treadmill, then ultrasounds, chest x-rays, and I had a mammogram. What astounded me was that we could ask the technicians, “How does it look?” and “Do you see any abnormalities?” Try that in the states and you will get a response such as, ” You will have to wait until the doctor reads the tests and you’ll find out in a couple of weeks.” Instead, the technicians reviewed the exams with us and reassured us that everything looked fine.

At noon, we finished the major procedures. Maite took us to the cafeteria for our free lunch and COFFEE! Since we had to fast the night before, I missed my morning coffee. Then, we had an hour to wait for our consultations with the doctors, and my gynecological exam.

We walked around the well-manicured grounds, where I discovered the children’s burn unit. You must read the experience of Vivian Pellas and why she started the children’s burn unit. Love Without Limits: Health Care in Nicaragua

IMG_3369A friend, who lives on the island, took her small son to Vivian Pellas Children’s Burn Hospital for a badly burnt foot. Poor little toddler accidentally stepped on a ground fire. She was very impressed with the care and attention he received and all expenses were free.

Our private consultations with English-speaking doctors were held in the afternoon. They carefully reviewed all of our test results and gave us plenty of time to ask numerous questions. The only test result that wasn’t available was my Pap test because I had just completed my gynecological exam 30 minutes earlier.  But, not to worry. They would scan the results and email me within two days. ( AND…they did! )

Now, I know you are curious about the cost of these exams. What would be your guess?
The public price for the Male over 40 Physical is of U$ 350
With the 6 months discount (30%) is of U$ 245
With the 3 months discount (25%) U$ 262.50

The public price for the Female over 40 Physical is of U$ 420
With the 6 months discount (30%) is of U$ 294
With the 3 months discount (25%) U$ 315

We were at the hospital until 5:00 pm. All exams were professional and we received same day results! They sent us home with hugs and packets complete with our x-rays, ultrasound pictures, EKGs, thoroughly reviewed blood analysis’, and most importantly recommendations for improving our health as we age. Although, I am proud to announce that we are in excellent health for two aging baby boomers. 🙂

Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would I recommend Vivian Pellas to other expats? Without any doubts! Their medical tourism program is growing rapidly. Many foreigners come to Vivian Pellas for hip replacements, cosmetic surgery, and other procedures at 1/4 of the cost of procedures in the states.

Does this mean that I’m abandoning Dr. Google? No, of course not. But, now I can make more informed decisions about my health care because of the thorough services I received at Vivian Pellas. Is my cyberchondria cured? Yes! Thanks to the attentive, caring doctors and staff at Vivian Pellas. It is very reassuring to know that we have an excellent expat hospital, same day results, and hospitable staff available in Nicaragua. Have I told you how much I LOVE this country?

19 thoughts on “Dr. Google and Cyberchondriacs

  1. Thanks so much for creating this Blog… great information. My wife and I have been coming to Nicaragua since 2005 and are now living full time in Playa Iguana. LOVE Ometepe!

    Both myself and my wife need to plug into the VP Hospital Medical Plan.

    Are pre-existing conditions a problem in obtaining coverage for the Health Care Club?

    My wife Annie takes daily medication for a condition called Valley Fever. In fact, Annie needs a current blood test evaluation for this condition. Annie has developed a skin rash… similar to hives… need to evaluate if this rash may be indication of reoccurrence of Valley Fever…or, hopefully, not.

    I was just drafting an email to Arlen to see if VP Hospital had an Internist that is familiar with Valley Fever.

    Thanks for your enlightenment!


    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks so much for your comment. When we applied for the VP Medical Plan, we each received a comprehensive check-up, then same day results. We had no pre-existing conditions, and I don’t think it makes a difference to them. They helped us decide which plan would be the best for us and the least costly. VP hospital is wonderful. The doctors are caring and professional, and I can’t speak highly enough about Arlen. She’s a gem. When I had my check-up last year, I had a small, annoying skin condition. I looked it up on the internet and copied the information I found. Then, when I saw the doctor that did my check-up, I gave him my info. He knew exactly what it was and treated it accordingly with a cream I got from their pharmacy. Arlen is very good about answering her emails quickly. I’ll bet your wife, Anne, will receive an excellent consultation. Best wishes! We love Playa Iguana…one of our favorite beaches in Nicaragua. Next time you visit Ometepe, come visit us. 🙂

  2. And I thought that Mexico was the only country where your doctor gives you a hug. (Not all do, some just shake hands.)

    On Saturday, we went to our long-standing family physician. His receptionist-secretary was coming in the door. We got besos y abrazos from her. The handsome doctor refilled my prescriptions, without charge, and even though we hadn’t been in to see him for a paid consultation in about a year.

    Don Cuevas

  3. Many people come to Ecuador for medical tourism as well. Also people come here for dental care and save enough money to more than pay for their trip and vacation. Thanks for the report and we are glad to hear that you and your husband are healthy!

  4. Great post, thanks for sharing your awesome experience! Do you mind if I re-blog this? I think it’s a great bit of info for those friends and family who still shake their heads in fear of where we are living! Humph!! Those silly people…:)

  5. As a physician who now practices in an Emergency Room in the south – I am disheartened at the lack of affordable healthcare in this country. I have been to Nicaragua on 5 medical missions and 2 vacations and my husband and I are now planning on retiring to Nicaragua in 2-3 years and your blog reminds me that we are making the correct decision. I just wish I could leave tomorrow. Thanks for your great blog.

    • It is a wonderful feeling to be able to share our health care experiences with professionals in the field of medicine. It’s encouraging to hear from those who work on “the other side of the exam table.” I am curious to know what the cost of all these exams would be in the states for an uninsured person. I know a mammogram would have cost me $60 at a public health clinic in the states. Usually, the cost of things in Nicaragua are, on the average, 1/4 of the cost of the same things in the states. But, in my humble opinion, nothing can compare to the personal and compassionate health care we receive in Nicaragua. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Before you know it, you will be living in Nicaragua…an amazing country. 🙂

    • Z…I was desperate for a cup of coffee. I slurped down three cups at lunch. I’m so glad our exam day is over and our results were good. It always makes us so nervous…thanks to Dr. Google and the worst-case scenarios. 🙂 Now, I need to get back to my Timeout for Art. I’m working on the face of Walter White from Breaking Bad. I wish I could watch the new season starting tonight. I’m addicted to that show.

      • hmmm. i have no idea who you’re talking about but will find out who’s walter white and what’s ‘breaking bad’!!! i diconnected from television about 15 years ago!!!

        i enjoy drinking coffee at night, and no, i can go to sleep w/zero trouble! right now i’m working on the compass, which is going a bit slower than i’d like!

  6. Thanks for the reminder – I not only enjoyed reading your experience there, but was reminded yet again about the excellent health care also available in Mexico.

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