As healthcare consumers become more savvy and informed about more affordable and/or accessible care, both within their home country and abroad, they will be more likely to seek a destination aligned with their preferences. Healthcare executives must pay attention to this trend or risk the potential of losing patient volumes. How big has Medical Travel become? It’s hard to say exactly, but some estimates suggest it’s projecting growth up to 20% year-over-year for the next 10 years.
The Global Healthcare Accreditation® (GHA) Program recognizes the Medical Travel Care Continuum as a combination of the healthcare patient process and the hospitality guest stay process. GHA Standards were built on the premise of 17 core competencies enabling optimal management of the overall experience for a Medical Traveler. Further, their objective is to assist and validate that the provider’s over-arching business strategy is built upon consistent, ethical, safe and transparent management practices.
Many may ask what is Quality in Medical Travel? The assurance of quality in Medical Travel goes beyond the care delivered in the actual healthcare facility – it starts from the point of inquiry for the service and destination through arrival and admission through the ongoing communication after follow-up service has been provided.
GHA Standards have been built on the global understanding of best practices in various systems across the globe along with the integration of best practices in hospitality, the patient experience, and business processes related to medical travel. A key element is the engagement of patients respecting informed consent, transparency regarding risk of procedure and cost of service, legal accountability, and whether the provision of services aligned with the culture and language of the patient. The ultimate display of Quality within the Medical Travel industry will come as organizations around the world collect (and report) outcome data, adhere to best practices, such as the GHA standards, and build the advocacy of Medical Travelers within their staff culture.
Understanding risk is likely one of the largest misconceptions in the Medical Travel industry for consumers or service providers with no experience in Medical Travel. There is a historical and fairly prominent industry opinion that medical travel is unsafe and the risk of poor outcomes is high – this can be true when best practices related to healthcare safety are not followed or human resource management does not exist.
The GHA Program consistently promotes the advocacy of patient rights, transparency, and patient safety principles. Whether pursing Medical Travel services or not, healthcare consumers should always be:
• Attentive, and
Understanding the risk of a procedure for an individual consumer requires an understanding of possible outcomes based on an understanding of a patient’s current state of health along with the possible options or outcomes for that current time period.
For an organization, understanding risk comes down to understanding historical vulnerabilities, mitigating strategies against sentinel events in healthcare (such as surgical site infections, medication errors caused by lookalike, sound alike drugs, etc .) aginst the reality of daily operational requirements across all service departments. Identification of risk often occurs through the presence of an actual risk reporting system, such as an Adverse Incident Reporting system or process.
The Role of Regulators
Regulators, whether self-imposed or through law, play a critical role in understanding and managing risk for healthcare facilities. Key topics that are basic to clinical and non-clinical risk for healthcare facilities around the world include:
• Licensure of healthcare facilities
• Licensure and credentialing of clinicians
• Legal infrastructure
• Facility management
• Occupational safety
• Emergency preparedness
These basic topics and more contribute to successful operations of healthcare facilities in the context of understanding risk. Obviously, a deficiency in these areas or in infrastructure or management processes to promote safe practices creates a vulnerable situation for healthcare facilities. The active participation to mitigate risk through the implementation of programs or processes that cover these basic topic areas and more will contribute to a higher change of producing a safe and successful Medical Travel Care Continuum.