A newly founded group focused on medical tourism says it hopes to represent the interest of reputable healthcare providers and other businesses working in the burgeoning field while also providing interested patients with the information they need to make informed decisions about overseas care.
According to Jonathan Edelheit, inaugural president of the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based not-for-profit group Medical Tourism Association, the organization is working to create a comprehensive, credible Web site where U.S. residents can access information on medical tourism, identify hospitals and providers, and learn about their outcomes.
Were gathering information on the hospitals that are (association) members, and well give detailed information about these hospitals, from infection rates to nurse-patient ratios, to what credentials the hospitals and doctors have and the countrys process for accreditation, said Edelheit, who is also vice president of OptiMed Health/United Group Programs.
The associations credentialing board has yet to decide which credentialing standards to adopt, but Edelheit says they are strongly considering using those issued by the Joint Commission International as minimum guidelines for providers membership into the organization. They will also consider standards for travel agencies, hotels and other businesses promoting themselves within the medical tourism industry.
There are travel companies out there that get paid for (provider) referrals, and we want to make sure that they arent sending people to hospitals that no one in their right mind would go to, Edelheit said.
The associations advisory board includes Robert Crone, president and chief executive officer of Harvard Medical International, and John Bridges, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health. (See Special Report Extra in the Podcast section of modernhealthcare.com to hear an interview with Crone on Harvards work in the Middle East.)
The tourism group will be supported by membership dues, ranging from $1,000 for hospitals to $500 for affiliated businesses and $250 for physicians.
Edelheit noted that three healthcare insurance companies are also part of the advisory board, but said the organization has signed confidentiality agreements not to disclose their names because of concerns that U.S. hospitals might object to their involvement.
Although no statistics currently exist on the number of Americans crossing the border for medical care, a growing number of hospitals in countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico and Singapore are soliciting U.S. patients to visit for care as complex as heart, orthopedic, transplant and cancer surgeries. In the U.S., certain types of heart surgery can cost between $100,000 and $160,000, Edelheit said. But in places like India, Thailand or Singapore, the same surgery will cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
But American Hospital Association spokesman Richard Wade said instead of promoting medical tourism, hed like to see American healthcare groups put more effort into solving the factors that are driving patients out of the country for care.