A set of nine principles to ensure the safety of patients seeking medical care outside the U.S. was approved by the American Medical Association House of Delegates during its annual meeting in Chicago.
The principles include calls for such care to be voluntary and not mandated by an insurance company or employer; that patients should be referred only to institutions that have been accredited by recognized international accrediting bodies; that follow-up care coordination be arranged in advance; and that patients be advised about the potential risks of combining surgery with long flights and vacation activities.
Jeff Terry, a Mobile, Ala.-based urologist with the AMAs Council on Medical Services that developed the report, said that the AMA wasnt trying to block medical tourism and that it is the AMAs policy to support pluralism, meaning patients should be able to decide who and where they receive treatment from. The whole issue is safety for patients, Terry said.
At a news conference after the vote, AMA board member James Rohack, whom delegates chose as president-elect via voice proclamation on Saturday, also said that privacy, care coordination and the lack of mandates were also important. This has to be a voluntary process, Rohack said.
The AMA cited figures showing that an estimated 150,000 Americans received medical treatment abroad in 2006, with about half the procedures considered medically necessary surgeries, and that some of these procedures can cost less than 20% of the price for similar operations performed at a U.S. hospital. -- by Andis Robeznieks