Checking Out the Doctor for Your Treatment Abroad

In any medical procedure or treatment it is imperative that you choose the right doctor.
The following is a brief guide on how to check and investigate the foreign doctor, surgeon or dentist who will perform your medical procedure abroad.

Qualifications of the Surgeon or Dentist

Checking out your doctor begins by finding out about their qualifications. In summary, the following items should be checked.
  • When and where they received their medical education and degree
  • Professional credentials including, licensing and license updating requirements
  • Specialization degree, license and certifications
  • Fellowships or post-graduate training courses they received
  • Special training courses they underwent related to the procedures they offer
  • Previous and current hospital or clinical employment history
  • Languages spoken and their conversational proficiency

Education, Training and Licensure

It is important to note that medical licensure is only permitted for medical degrees that were obtained from schools listed in the FAIMER International Medical Educational Directory or the World Health Organization (WHO) Directory of Medical Schools. Check if your doctor received their medical degree from any of these listed schools. They should be duly licensed by the official licensure body in their own countries, or a State Licensure or an equivalent from the US or another country.
For international medical students who obtained their degree and residency programs in the United States, they should complete a program established by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). If education was obtained in the United Kingdom, they should have obtained their Bachelor of Medicine in a school accredited by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Medical Certification

Most medical tourism destinations boast of medical staff that were trained and certified in the United States, United Kingdom or other Western countries. Taking this into consideration, you should check and confirm if this claim is correct.

In the United States, the main body responsible for accrediting postgraduate medical training programs for medical doctors is the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The ACGME is composed of member organizations like the American Board of Medical Specialties, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges and the Council of Medical Specialty Societies. Check if your doctor's name is duly registered and is still active from any of these certification bodies.

The equivalent of the ACGME is the General Medical Council (GMC) for the United Kingdom and the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) for the European Community (EEC). If your doctor obtained their certifications from any of these medical organizations, their names and certification status should be duly registered in their accreditation list.

Practice

It would also be important to note where, when and how long your doctor has been practicing his profession. Working in a Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited or an International Standardization Organization (ISO) certified hospital and clinic would be be good to note, as these qualified hospitals would only hire similarly qualified doctors and staff.

Membership and Accreditation in Professional Associations

A good medical practice does not start and end in getting good medical education or working in an internationally certified clinic or hospital. Your doctor should also be involved in Continuing Professional Development programs or equivalent in their own countries or international institutions. By doing so, the doctor can keep up-to-date with the latest knowledge and technologies in the constantly evolving medical world.

It is to be expected that surgeons have international memberships in professional associations like the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) or the European Association of Plastic Surgeons (EURAPS). If they were trained in the US, they can be members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or equivalent societies in their respective fields of specialization. Cosmetic dentists can have membership or are listed in the international associations like the General Dental Council (GDC) or the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD).

In a similar manner, destination countries have professional associations that regulate the accreditation and qualification of dentists and surgeons. Examples are the Belgian Society for the Plastic Surgery which is equivalent to the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons or BAPRAS. In dentistry, the Philippine Dental Association is equivalent or on par with the General Dental Council.

Malpractice, Liability and Safety

There are several other possible questions that you could ask your doctors. However, the most important question would be in safety and risks. Therefore, you should ask everything you can about this aspect. If you do not understand something, you should ask for detailed clarification.
  • Find out if they have a contract of services and if there is accountability in case of complications due to negligence
  • Does the doctor have any history of malpractice claims?
  • Are the doctor's certifications and accreditations for both local and international bodies up-to-date and regularly renewed? Do they have records to prove it?

Additional Questions to Ask

Being meticulous regarding medical related items is not a fault, and should be practiced particularly by people embarking on medical tourism. The following are additional questions and enquiries that you should ask regarding your doctors.
  • What is the doctor's experience in performing this type of surgery? How many operations of this type has he performed before?
  • What is their rate of complications experience with this kind of surgery or operation?
  • Will the anesthesiologist perform a pre and post-operative evaluation? Has the surgeon worked with this anesthesiologist before?
  • Check if you can speak with their former patients

Seek Recommendations from Other Sources

Performing your own research in connection with international surgeons and dentists is good practice. However, getting additional information from other resources is highly encouraged. The following are some of these resources.
  • Recommendations from friends, families, neighbours and workmates or someone you know that has undergone surgeries or treatments from the same doctors.
  • Read testimonies and recommendations from previous patients and medical travelers on forums and websites.
  • Get involved and participate in online communities and get first-hand recommendations, tips and advice.