The term “medical tourism‟ means. We can define medical tourism as the activity of travelling across different or various international borders to gather information pertaining to healthcare. It can also be referred to as “medical travel‟ or “health tourism‟.
Medical tourism is the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country.
Let us now define a medical tourist. Tourists, as you know, are the foreigners who visit various countries and a “medical tourist‟ is a person who intends to visit various countries seeking quality healthcare facilities at an affordable or lesser rate.
These medical tourists generally come from countries like United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, where the healthcare facilities are very costly.
How does the Procedure of Medical Tourism Work
Well, when you are looking for a medical treatment in a foreign country, you must contact a medical tourism provider. The medical tourism provider will in turn seek information, pertaining to the details of ailment, medical report, local doctor’s opinion, diagnosis and the medical history of the patient seeking treatment.
The medical tourism provider collects information about the treatment, estimated cost, duration of stay along with the list of hospitals and tourist destinations from the doctors and consultants and sends it across to the patient who is seeking treatment.
Accordingly the patient has to sign the respective agreements and will be provided with a recommendation letter to obtain a medical visa from the embassy. When the patient travels to the country where medical treatment is required, the patient would be escorted by a representative from the medical tourism provider team, to the required hospital for treatment and the choice of visiting the various destinations is left to the patient after the treatment is over.
Role of Quality and Insurance in Medical Tourism
To maintain a transparent quality healthcare, the Medical Tourism Association introduced a “Quality of Health Care Project”. This project indicated the transparency of care provided in each section or units of the hospital, ensuring quality treatment to the patients.
It is a very difficult task for most of the medical tourists to assess the quality of care provided by hospitals, as they differ from one hospital to another hospital; since each hospital uses its own procedures and techniques in collecting and reporting the statistics of the hospitals and quality standards.
The “quality of healthcare project” or “quality indicator project” will involve in the work activities of the hospitals and governments across the globe, in order to come up with a “single procedure” or “single methodology” for reporting.
The project will enable the patients, insurance companies and the employers across the world to have a comparative study about the quality of care provided by the various top international global hospitals.
The Medical Tourism Association website will contain information which was gathered from the “Quality of Health Care Project”. Thus, various medical tourists from across the world will be able to view the quality of healthcare provided by all international hospitals, just by the click of a button. The mission of the project is to provide transparency, in the quality of care provided and also to promote Global Health Care in the world.
The factors that play an important role in maintaining quality in healthcare facilities are
- Quality of service provided in hospitals
- Patient volumes
- Patient safety
Role of accreditation in attracting Medical Tourists
As hospitals attract medical tourists from across the globe, these hospitals need to maintain a good quality standard along with the quality service at an affordable cost.
The Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation is considered to be the oldest international accrediting body and the Bermuda Hospital Board was the first hospital to be accredited in 1968. Since 1968, the Canadian accreditation agency has accredited several hospitals and health service organisations in ten different countries.
Joint Commission International (JCI)
The JCI is a well known accreditation group in the United States. Since 1999, the JCI has involved in many inspecting and accrediting activities of healthcare organisations and hospitals outside the United States.
Countries across the globe have found that by accrediting their hospitals, international tourists could be attracted, which would enhance the revenue of both their hospital and their country.
Joint Commission International is a sister concern of Joint Commission in the United States and are independent “non-profit” private bodies who develop standards and procedures for both national and international levels to improve patient care and safety in healthcare sectors.
The JCI generally works with the hospitals and helps them in meeting the Joint Commission standard and finally accredits the hospital which meets the JCI standards.
The QHA Trent Accreditation
The QHA Trent Accreditation is a United Kingdom based accreditator. The various accreditations vary in quality, cost and the marketing methodology incorporated.
The value of getting an international accreditation like JCI, ISQUA and Trent ensured quality healthcare and safety to medical tourists. Hospitals are now widely going for various international accreditations like JCI and Trent, so that medical tourists could be attracted in large numbers from the US, UK and Europe.
The United Kingdom Accreditation Forum (UKAF) is an organisation which contributes to quality practices. The good practices and the new ideas, which are required for the purpose of accreditation, are shared like the issues concerning the development of quality healthcare standard, implementing the standards with the healthcare system and assessing the peer review.
The Medical Tourism Association (MTA) was set up to make sure that its members can avail the best quality healthcare service at international global hospitals. Therefore, MTA has signed agreements with the global insurance companies, to provide the members of the association with better treatments across global hospitals. Providers and Marketers, a US Health Insurance Company, is considered to be the pioneers in the medical tourism industry For example, the World Med Assist has signed an agreement with the Swiss Reinsurance Company. Swiss Reinsurance Company is a global insurance company that operates in more than 25 countries around the world; providing medical tourism as part of their existing insurance policies. The people who avail the insurance facilities from the Swiss Reinsurance Company are also provided insurance for medical tourism.
Several mini medical plans, which are affordable and are known as low cost health insurance plans have been set up for people who take up part-time jobs and those who are not benefited from full-time jobs. Thus, the numbers of insured persons have risen, when compared to the earlier years.
Insurance companies like Blue cross, Blue Shield and WellPoint provide medical tourism to Americans who wish to visit India.