The term Medical Tourism refers to people going abroad with the purpose of seeking medical treatment. It also includes healthcare providers travelling to another country to deliver their service. The practice of this kind of travelling has increased rapidly in recent years, and over 50 nations worldwide have identified medical tourism as a national industry.
Virtually any type of health care can be provided for medical tourism patients, although some treatments are more widespread than others. Elective surgery, such as cosmetic surgery, together with more complex and specialized surgery is very common, but the practice also include dental treatments and wellness programs, as well as treatments spanning for a long time, such as cancer treatment and convalescence care.
Several factors have stimulated the demand for medical tourism. Longer waiting times and higher cost in the patients’ home countries are two important factors. Enhanced personalized service together with improvements in technology in the provider countries are other incitements. More flexible and lower international travel costs have also contributed.
Most patients travel from the First World to exotic destinations to combine their treatment with a relaxing holiday. Some of the most popular destinations for medical travel are India, Argentina, The Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Hungary and South Africa. The South American countries are known for their notable cosmetic surgery travel. However, medical tourism is on the rise in some countries in Europe, such as Poland, Slovakia and Belgium.
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Most patients initially contact a medical tourism provider. It is important to understand the distinction between different kinds of providers; hospitals are large medical institutions, generally containing many specialized departments offering long term treatment. Clinics are usually smaller private or public health care facilities usually catering to outpatients. Medical tour operators collaborate with hospitals and clinics, providing them with clients and taking care of the entire process for the patient.
The provider typically requests a medical report from the patient before departure. This report may contain info regarding the nature of the ailment together with the medical history of the patient and a local doctor’s recommendation. After that the patient receives an advice from the certified medical staff at the provider. The patient should also receive thorough information regarding the itinerary of the trip, the provider and medical facility and potential VISA requirements before agreeing to the terms. When arriving at the destination, the provider often arranges accommodation and guidance. After the treatment, the patient usually remains at the destination for a while to relax and gain strength before going back home.
When crossing borders to obtain healthcare many patients are enticed by the cheaper price and the higher personal comfort of the provider facilities. However, to find information about patient safety regulations and quality of the provider, consumers are compelled to do their own research. To one’s help, there are several Healthcare organizations that guide, inspect and educate healthcare providers to obtain and maintain the high standards of patient care and safety. One of the best symbols for this is international accreditation, which can be described as a voluntary process that provides a universal standard of credibility for the healthcare provider.
Accreditation is a process of both internal and external evaluation used by healthcare organizations to accurately assess their level of performance in relation to established standards. It is very important to remember that medical standards vary around the world, and the practice of international accreditation is fairly new.
As more and more patient travel abroad for healthcare, the competition amongst the healthcare providers is getting more and more fierce. Many leading medical facilities continuously improve their standards of high tech equipment, patient care, services and safety. Recognition from internationally recognized health care evaluators is an important factor in differentiating oneself from the competitors.
To look for the providers’ international accreditation should be an important factor in the patient’s decision making. However, there is not one single international accreditation scheme that is seen as an overall world-wide-relevant scheme. There is also currently no single organization responsible for accrediting the providers and ensuring that their operating standards are wholly safe and ethical. However, with this in mind, there are several organizations that perform international accreditation with valuable appraisal and information:
Several medical facilities around the world also hold an ISO certification, which stands for International Organization for Standardization. ISO has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and is a non-governmental organization that sets international industrial and commercial standards. However, ISO is not considered to be an international healthcare accreditation scheme.