Medical Tourism: Who Is Tracking Quality?2 min read
Despite the rapid rise in medical tourism over the past five years, the vast majority of Americans remain reluctant to travel outside of the United States for medical care even if it means saving thousands of dollars. Perhaps the main reason is concern about the quality of medical care, and the lack of universal credentialing and certification of foreign facilities and physician providers. (Read what Travel & Leisure has to say about the benefits vs. risk of medical tourism.) That may soon change, however, as at least two nonprofit organizations have begun tackling the formidable task of qualifying those who market medical care to an international audience.
The better known of the two organizations is the Joint Commission International. The JCI has accredited 300 public and private health care organizations in 39 countries since 1999. These organizations include hospitals, ambulatory care centers, clinical laboratories, primary care services and disease or specific condition care centers using international best practice standards. It does not, however, investigate the practices of individual physicians or allied health professionals, or provide ratings based on consumer feedback.
The more recent entry into the medical tourism space is the Medical Tourism Association, also known as the Global Healthcare Association. According to their website, the MTA is the “first international non-profit association made up of top international hospitals, healthcare providers, medical travel facilitators, insurance companies, and other affiliated companies and members with the common goal of promoting the highest level of quality of healthcare to patients in a global environment.” Although this organization is designed to promote the interests of its members, it does collect and disseminate consumer driven data to insurance companies and prospective patients. In an attempt to remain credible, they attest to transparency in quality, pricing, and patient safety. They claim that their information is “unbiased with regard to patient outcomes.”
Anyone contemplating travelling abroad for medical care should contact these organizations for information, and, while we aren’t in a position to endorse their credentialing methods, we would advise prospective medical tourists to give some weight to their findings. We would also note that there are many places in the world that have yet to come under their scrutiny.