In an exclusive podcast interview, Modern Healthcare reporter Jean DerGurahian talks with Leonard Karp, president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia International Medicine, about the myriad challenges foreign patients pose for U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems.
Read the accompanying Special Report, Breaking barriers, which ran in the July 7 issue of Modern Healthcare.
Womans Voice: Welcome to this edition of Special Report Extra, brought to you by Modern Healthcare, and powered by Martopia. With each edition of Special Report Extra, listeners hear directly from key healthcare executives involved in the major events shaping the industry.
Jean DerGurahian: This is Jean DerGurahian, reporter with Modern Healthcare magazine. We're speaking with Leonard Karp, president and CEO of Philadelphia International Medicine. The topic is international patients traveling to the U.S. for their care, which was featured in the July 7th issue of Modern Healthcare. Len, thanks so much for joining us.
Leonard Karp: Oh, it's my pleasure.
Jean DerGurahian: Americans seem preoccupied with the quality of our healthcare services, yet plenty of foreigners are coming to America for what they see as top-notch quality. Is there a disconnect?
Leonard Karp: No, there really isn't. When it gets down to who would you trust when you're life is on the line, most people around the world and in the United States want to see an American physician. What you're really talking about are two different things. Access to healthcare and financing of the healthcare system, and sure there are issues in that area. American healthcare is very expensive, but when you get down to quality and outcomes, American healthcare is considered the gold standard around the world.
Jean DerGurahian: International patients represent about $1.5 billion in business for U.S. hospitals. That seems to be a sliver of the overall industry. Why do hospitals here concentrate on attracting more oversees patients?
Leonard Karp: I think that there are probably four reasonsthere are probably a lot reasons, but I can think of four. One is, clinically, the cases that we see are more complex and more challenging than what we generally get from the domestic population. It's because the cases in other countries, the patients don't have the access to primary care, like we do here. You're seeing medical situations that are more advanced and more difficult, challenging to treat.
The second reason is simple, it's the bottom line. International patients are charged more to reflect that complexity in the care, so there's more opportunity for higher margins.
The third reason would be market opportunities, and in the U.S., most of our areas that house academic and medical centers are mature and fully built. There's little room for growth, but overseas, you see the development of middle class and higher economic classes, and those people are in need of access to better standards of care.
And the fourth reason is to capitalize on their brand name. Many of our academic medical centers are known throughout the world, and if they truly want to be among the elite of medicine, academic medicine, they need to have a global presence.
Jean DerGurahian: Well, as so many Americans leave our shores for care overseas, what role will U.S. hospitals play in that increasingly global healthcare market?
Leonard Karp: That role continues to evolve, but today, American hospitals are not just looking to bring patients from overseas here, but they're also finding opportunities to plant their flag abroad, and by that I mean it may be consulting contracts to help improve health care in other countries, or it may be research and teaching affiliations with academic peers overseas. It may mean management contracts with, and it also may mean hospital development. So, it's a combination of opportunities that are growing worldwide.
Jean DerGurahian: Patient satisfaction is a key issue in U.S. healthcare; what type of feedback do you collect from international patients about their experiences in Pennsylvania, and what are the biggest concerns for this patient population?
Leonard Karp: There are various ways that we collect data on patient satisfaction. The hotels where they stay do a good job at collecting satisfaction information. The hospitals themselves, just as they do for domestic patients, they also capture data for international patients. Our airports take surveys when patients leave. Our own organization tries really hard to personalize the care that each patient is given, and we assign a guide, or a case manager for each patient that's here.
I guess the best way to tell whether you're being successful or not is, what's the reaction of the patient and do they come back? And our most likely source of patient referral today, or our highest gross areas, are referrals from patients who've previously been here.
Just like an American patient, an international patient's primary concern is getting well, getting healthy, and what we see as our job is taking away all the other pressures that they may have so they can concentrate on the most important job, and that's getting healthy.
Jean DerGurahian: This is Jean DerGurahian, reporter with Modern Healthcare magazine. We've been speaking with Leonard Karp, president and CEO of Philadelphia International Medicine.
Leonard Karp: Thank you very much.
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