Definitions

health-tourism

Health tourism provider

A Health tourism provider or medical tourism provider is an organisation or a company which seeks to bring together a prospective patient with a service provider, usually a hospital or a clinic. If the patient is crossing international borders to obtain medical care, then that individual would usually be known as a medical tourist. These groups are generally facilitators and developers of medical tourism, which brings into play a number of issues that do not apply when a patient stays within their own country of origin.

Some such organisations and companies specialise in certain areas of healthcare, such as cosmetic surgery, dentistry or transplant surgery, while others are more generalised in their approach, providing multiple services over a wide range of medical specialities.

Medical quality standards vary around the world, and international accreditation is relatively new. For these reasons, potential clients may face unknowns and risks related to quality, safety and ethics. Medical tourists look to health tourism providers to provide information about quality, safety and legal issues, but the quality of such information and services varies.

Practices

Some health tourism providers make information available about the hospitals and the doctors that they are partnered with, but the nature, extent and quality of the information provided by different organizations and companies working in this field varies enormously. Hospital quality indicators can include whether they have been subjected to independent international healthcare accreditation, practice evidence-based medicine, and good governance, and whether independent health care staff, particularly the doctors providing the services, have been subjected to independent credentialing, as well as evidence that the doctors maintain and improve their personal professional standards.

In addition, there are a number of non-medical angles which receive varying degrees of attention by providers. These include:

  • Prices and how to pay
  • Hotels
  • Non-medical risks involved
  • Language issues
  • Availability of techniques (e.g. new operations, new approaches to infertility, new imaging techniques)
  • Pre-travel health issues, such as antimalarial therapy (e.g. for Thailand) and relevant immunisations (e.g. typhoid and hepatitis A are recommended for travelling to Turkey or the Philippines)
  • Ethics (for example, see Organ harvesting in China)
  • Medico-legal issues (e.g. are the doctors providing the treatment adequately indemnified or carrying personal malpractice insurance ?, is the hospital itself adequately insured? can a patient sue if things go wrong ? will the hospital repatriate the body of a patient who dies on the operating table ?)

In 2006 the group CEO of Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand, stated "If there's a mistake, we fix it..... But the idea of suing for multimillions of dollars for damages is not going to be something you can do outside the U.S." (This particular hospital requires all doctors within their group to carry malpractice insurance). However, Americans and Europeans going overseas as medical tourists may not be able to take effective legal action if they are dissatisfied with their experience. The Medical Protection Society, a British group, is responsible for indemnifying doctors in many countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Brunei, which increases the level of protection enjoyed both by patients locally as well as those coming in as medical tourists.

Standards

Currently, while hospitals providing medical tourism services may be subject to international accreditation by a reputable independent international group, there is currently no organisation responsible for accrediting the health tourism providers themselves and ensuring that their operating standards are safe and ethical.

See also

References

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