Medical Tourism Industry Certifications

Maintaining High Quality Services in the Medical Tourism Industry

One of the primary concerns for health travelers is whether foreign providers can offer the same high-quality medical care they receive in their country of origin. This growing demand for foreign healthcare providers has prompted the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the best known healthcare accreditation group in the USA, to form an international offshoot known as the Joint Commission International (JCI).

In 1999, the JCI began surveying and accrediting hospitals and healthcare facilities outside of the USA. There are now over 220 accredited hospitals worldwide and most are providing quality services for the medical tourism industry.

Aside from the JCI, there are alternative non-profit groups providing accreditation for healthcare organizations in the USA. These include but are not limited to:

Non-US Accreditation Organizations

Aside from the accreditation bodies based in the USA, there are a number of international accreditation organizations in the medical tourism industry that are based abroad. These organizations perform a similar international role as the JCI, providing accreditation to international or regional health providers.

International Certification Status of Medical Tourism Providers

Destination countries for medical travelers that realize the impact of the medical tourism business in the economies of their respective countries, strive to provide the highest quality at the lowest possible cost. These countries are openly marketing medical tourism, with governments supporting these efforts by providing better facilities and seeking international accreditation.

Part of these efforts include hiring or training physicians with international credentials, such as professionals who train and are board certified in the USA, Australia, Canada and Europe. For example:
  • India – Apollo Hospitals are the largest healthcare provider and the first JCI-certified hospitals in India. The Apollo Group is also connected with Johns Hopkins Medicine International on studies regarding heart diseases. On top of this, the Indian Healthcare Federation provides accreditation standards for its local providers. Another provider, Wockhardt, is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School.
  • Singapore – This country provides state-of-the-art hospitals, three of which are accredited by the JCI. The International Medical Centre which is also affiliated with Johns Hopkins International, is the most notable.
  • Panama – With several Panamanian physicians trained and certified in the United States, Panama's top hospitals are comparable to the US. Foremost is the Punta Pacifica Hospital which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins International.
  • Thailand – There are over 1 million medical tourists going to Thailand each year.The fore-runner for Thailand's medical tourism industry is Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok. Located in a modern hospital building that complies with US standards, they comprise of an American-managed medical staff that includes 200 US board-certified doctors and surgeons. The rest of the staff members are licensed in Australia, Europe and Japan.

There are other foreign hospitals that are owned, managed or affiliated with American hospitals, healthcare providers and prestigious universities. An example is the Cleveland Clinic which owns and manages several facilities in other countries like Canada, Austria and the United Arab Emirates. The International Hospital Group which is based in Dallas builds and operates US-standard hospitals in Mexico.

Qualification of Doctors and Surgeons in Medical Tourism Destinations

Just as many doctors in the USA undergo part of their medical training abroad, many physicians from other countries have also trained and received board-certification in the United States. Foreign hospitals boast of their US and/or internationally certified medical staff. This can boost their image in the medical tourism industry. Many of these physicians have fellowships with American medical societies and have specialist certification from an American medical board.

The golden standard for certification for the medical profession in the USA is provided by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This is the umbrella organization for 24 nationally approved medical specialist boards. The coveted Gold Star is given by the ABMS to certified local and international physicians to demonstrate their expertise in their specialist fields. Certifications by the ABMS and its Member Boards are widely referenced by healthcare organizations, law firms and insurance companies. These specialist boards include the following certification bodies:
  • American Board of Allergy and Immunology
  • American Board of Anesthesiology
  • American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • American Board of Dermatology
  • American Board of Emergency Medicine
  • American Board of Family Medicine
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • American Board of Medical Genetics
  • American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • American Board of Nuclear Medicine
  • American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • American Board of Ophthalmology
  • American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • American Board of Otolaryngology
  • American Board of Pathology
  • American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • American Board of Plastic Surgery
  • American Board of Preventive Medicine
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
  • American Board of Radiology
  • American Board of Surgery
  • American Board of Thoracic Surgery

In the UK, the prominent professional medical association is the British Medical Association (BMA). However, certification is provided by the General Medical Council (GMC), which is responsible for controlling the certification and licenses of doctors and surgeons. The GMC also liaises with medical associations and certification bodies from other countries, particularly medical tourism industry providers. The result is a mutual recognition of physician qualifications.

In Europe, the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) is responsible for controlling the certification and licenses of doctors and surgeons. The GMC also liaises with medical associations and certification bodies from other countries, particularly medical tourism industry providers. The result is a mutual recognition of physician qualifications. With over 1.4 million certified medical specialists represented by the UEMS, they aim to standardize the laws and practices of the National Medical Associations from member countries. These include:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom