Medical tourism (also called medical travel) is a term that describes the practice of travelling outside ones own home country. The reasons for doing this range from the cost of the procedure to the long waiting times for a non-emergency procedure back home.
Some of the more prestigious overseas providers, such as Apollo Hospital Group and Wockhardt Hospitals (which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School) in India, and Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand, are known to offer a better level of care than the average community hospital in the United States.
Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, uses Microsofts Amalga Hospital Information System (HIS), a sophisticated health information technology system. This software is designed to recognize and prevent dangerous drug interactions, store patient records electronically and fully integrate all areas of patient management and hospital operations.
The US consular information sheet gives the health care system in Thailand high marks for quality, particularly facilities in Bangkok. However, the World Health Organization ranks the Thai healthcare system at number 47, which is below the USA’s ranking at 37 and the United Kingdom’s ranking at 18.
The Philippines is also starting to cash in on medical tourism, with an official Philippines medical tourism program running in co-operation with its Department of Tourism. It is hoped that patients from the US and Australia will be attracted there in the future. Several healthcare facilities are participating in the program, but so far St Lukes Medical Centre in Quezon City is the Government’s only full medical tourism partner. The Microsoft Amalga Hospital Information System (HIS) is used by the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in the Philippines.
Central and South America
Mexico has been popular for some time with American patients seeking primary and dental care. But to attract cash-paying American patients for surgical services, health care systems are building hospitals and clinics with the high level of service and amenities that American patients have come to expect. For instance, Americans expect professional medical staff and upscale private rooms in clean, modern facilities. They also expect high-tech equipment that American hospitals would possess.
By contrast, only about one out of four U.S. hospitals store medical records electronically. Third parties pay 87 percent of medical bills in the U.S. health care system, and most of the third parties do not reimburse physicians or hospitals for the use of EMRs. Since others pay the bills, patients usually do not choose hospitals or physicians based on their use of EMRs
More than 120 hospitals abroad are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI), an arm of the organization that accredits American hospitals participating in Medicare; another 20 are accredited through the International Standards Organization; and some countries are adopting their own accrediting standards.
The very high costs of healthcare in industrialized nations, convenience of international travel, along with the availability of world-class facilities and highly skilled medical practitioners in developing countries have pushed forward the industry of medical tourism.