The following is a brief guide for medical travelers on how to check and select a medical clinic or hospital abroad.
The first step in selecting an offshore medical provider is gathering as much information as possible about the clinic or hospital. You can do this by checking out their websites, obtaining literature and brochures about the establishment, or coordinating with medical intermediaries to obtain information they have on a particular facility. The more you know, the more prepared you will be.
Another important consideration is the destination country. You should be aware of visa requirements and extension allowances. This is an important consideration when balanced on the outcome or requirements of your treatment.
Hospital Accreditation and Affiliation
The biggest assurance for receiving quality healthcare is when the clinic or hospital has proper accreditation from reputable certifying bodies. The most renowned accreditation body is the Joint Commission International (JCI). You should check if the clinic or hospital has accreditation with the JCI and if their certification is still up-to-date. You can check our list of JCI accredited medical centers
Another certification to look for is from the International Standards Organization (ISO), which accredits hospitals based on international standards for quality and procedures. In addition, it would be important to consider checking for accreditation standards that hospitals and clinics have from their own country's healthcare federations.
Some foreign hospitals have affiliations with reputable American health providers and prestigious universities. Check if the foreign hospital is owned, managed or officially affiliated with their US counterparts.
Most foreign hospitals and clinics offering medical tourism packages, bundle their services into one deal, which includes the cost for procedures, tests and related treatments. However, you can also check with the medical provider if they also offer accommodation packages as part of their overall offer. There are some hospitals that include 5-star accommodation in their own hotel rooms, or they can offer package deals and discounts with an adjacent or nearby hotel facility.
You should also check if your destination medical provider can offer an all-inclusive medical travel package. Such deals not only include hotel accommodation, but also consider other basic requirements like hotel and airport pick-up, meetings and check-ups with doctors before and after surgery or procedures, and aftercare recovery facilities.
It would be wise to read up and be informed of local costs, prices of meals and transportation just in case you need to avail yourself of these items. Learn how to make your way around the area and whether it is safe to do so alone.
Hospital / Clinic Facilities and Services
Checking out the facilities of your destination medical provider is an important part of your preparation for a medical journey. Some of the questions regarding the health facility include the following:
- Where will the procedure take place? In a private hospital or at a doctor's clinic?
- Is the medical provider using an outpatient clinic or a hospital?
- Do they have a crash cart in case of emergencies?
- What kind of rooms do they have available? Are there suites and private rooms?
- Do they have an intensive care unit? If the procedure will take place in a doctor's clinic, is it located near an intensive care unit in case of emergencies?
- Do they maintain cooperative relationships with hospital facilities in the US?
- Do they have the latest in electronic and medical diagnostic equipment?
- Do they offer appropriate pharmaceuticals? Do these meet the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration?
- Do they have the specialized medical equipment necessary for the type of surgery or medical procedure that you require?
- Were there any reported cases of post operative infection in the past? What were the infection rates?
Hospital Care during Treatments
One of the advantages of Medical Tourism is the cost saving. You can divert some of these savings into getting the best care and luxurious facilities whilst you are being treated. In this regard, the medical traveler should enquire about or demand the following from the medical provider.
- Ask if you can get 5-star accommodation as part of your package
- Find out about the type of food they will be serving you in your room. Enquire if you could get premium meals or personal selections as long as your doctor will allow it.
- Ask what kind of nursing services they provide or if you could get a round the clock personal nurse for your needs.
- Find out if their nurses, hospital staff and other hospital employees are fluent in English
Hospital Aftercare Treatments
Aftercare is an important factor for any surgery or treatment. This is the period of time the body needs to recuperate and heal itself from the surgery or treatment. With this in mind, you should ask your medical provider the following points concerning aftercare.
- Do they recommend having a close friend or family with you during and after your treatment?
- Check if you need to stay in the hospital after your procedure or will be taken to your hotel.
- Enquire about any needed special care or attention required after your treatment.
- Ask if they have prepared contingency plans in case of complications during and after your procedure.
- Find out what activities you are allowed to engage in after your procedure.
It would be important for medical travelers to consider how the destination hospital or clinic handles medical records and other pertinent documentations. These documents would be important reference material for your physician back home, should you require follow-up check-ups or periodic post-treatment examinations.
Check if the hospital utilizes Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems to store and access patients' files including x-rays, laboratory tests and examination records. Find out if they can send these files electronically to your recipient hospital or doctor of choice when you return home.
If the hospital or clinic has no EMR capability, check if they can provide a complete duplicate of your records, which you can carry back with you when you go back home.
Many foreign hospitals competing in the Medical Tourism industry have standards for reporting their performance measures and quality indicators. These hospitals should be ready and willing to provide such disclosures on request. In this way, the patient can gauge the hospital's quality track record for a particular treatment or procedure. These quality disclosures should be obtainable from their websites or should be provided upon request.
Questions Regarding Malpractice and Liability
As in any medical procedure, the risks of malpractice or complications are always present, although these can be of varying levels. The following questions should be asked regarding the hospital or clinic's policy on malpractice and liability.
- Do they have a contract of services? Does it include accountability in the case of complications due to negligence?
- What is the hospital's track record in dealing with malpractice claims?
- Is there a payer that will cover the cost of medical procedures? What is included in their terms and conditions?
- What are the local regulations in the host country in dealing with malpractice issues? What are the differences from the United States?
- Will an international patient receive local government or non-profit organization assistance for legal aid and advice for malpractice cases?
Questions Regarding Safety
On top of malpractice and liability concerns, the patient should also be familiar with how the foreign hospital or clinic handles safety issues and concerns. The following are guide questions that patients could use.
- What are the hospital's policies on safety? Do they have procedures in proper disposal of hazardous or potentially contagious materials like spent needles, etc?
- What are their hygienic policies on food and inpatient facilities?
- How safe and secure is the accommodation or affiliated hotel that the medical facility provides?
- What are their precautions for post-treatment care?
Seek Recommendations from Other Sources
Doing your own research is a very wise move in obtaining complete details about a destination hospital or clinic for medical tourism. However, seeking information and recommendations from a third party source would also be a valuable resource. This includes the following:
- Recommendations from friends, families, neighbors and workmates or someone who has undergone treatment from the same facility.
- Check ratings and reviews by independent healthcare websites and organizations investigating healthcare destinations.
- Read testimonies and recommendations from previous patients and medical travelers on forums, websites, eGroups and bulletin boards.
- Get involved and participate in online communities and get first-hand recommendations, tips and advice.