Global Healthcare Accreditation Announces “Dream Team” of Surveyors

The Global Health Accreditation® (GHA) Program, the first independent accrediting body focused on medical travel services and the medical travel patient experience, today announces its team of surveyors responsible for the onsite evaluation of healthcare facilities seeking Global Healthcare Accreditation.

The GHA program complements existing national and international clinical accreditation programs and offers an Accreditation with Excellence designation to those organizations having accreditation from an ISQua approved accrediting body. While these programs traditionally focus on the clinical aspects of care for the entire organization, GHA conducts a deep review of the International or Global Patient Services program or the entity within an organization that serves the medical travel patient.

“GHA standards are the foundation of a systematic and objective evaluation process of an organization’s approach to the management of medical travel services. They focus on the entire medical travel care continuum and specifically how all steps in the care continuum contribute to an overall safe, high quality medical travel experience,” said Karen Timmons, CEO of GHA.

“Our Surveyors are an integral part of the Global Healthcare Accreditation program and include physicians, nurses, and administrators with extensive experience in healthcare quality improvement, the patient experience and medical travel. They are a group of passionate professionals who are always eager to share their expertise and knowledge during their onsite visits with our clients. We are pleased to welcome such experienced and capable professionals as part of our GHA Surveyor team.”

GHA surveyor Stephen Shearer stated, “It is a privilege to be able to be a part of an initiative that supports quality healthcare globally. As a surveyor, I am able to support hospitals and clinics in providing a superior treatment experience to the international patient.”

Eleven surveyors currently make up the GHA team:

Rhonda Anderson, former Chief Executive Officer of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona from 2009 to 2016. She currently is a healthcare consultant for RMA Consulting of Arizona. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Bill Cook, Director of Business Development, GHA. Prior to joining GHA, Bill was co-founder and vice president of Medical Tours Costa Rica, a pioneering organization that played a key role in positioning Costa Rica as a leading medical tourism destination. Between 2006 and 2013, Bill and his team managed offshore medical care for over 3,000 patients treated at Costa Rica’s three JCI accredited facilities. Bill has coauthored several books, guides and written many articles related to medical tourism and the international patient experience.

Carol Gilmore, MBA, RD, Healthcare Quality Consultant. Ms. Gilmore assesses Latin American hospitals and clinics regarding their preparations for JCI accreditation. In this role, she evaluates compliance with standards, delivers presentations and brief education programs. She works with hospital leadership to define objectives and strategies related to accreditation and medical travel.

Ann Jacobson MSN, former Executive Director, Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation Program. Ann possesses over 30 years’ experience in healthcare including executive management, consultation, training/education, accreditation standards compliance, quality and patient safety improvement and care delivery process redesign.

Sherry Kaufield MA, FACHE, Medical Quality and Safety Officer at the United Nations in the Medical Services Division. Previously, she served as Executive Director, International Services, for Joint Commission International (JCI). Ms. Kaufield has over 30 years of experience in health care with expertise in clinical and managerial operations, business development, corporate compliance, executive leadership development, public relations and marketing, and development and implementation of individual and multi-hospital system performance improvement and strategic planning initiatives.

Mary Miller Sallah MHA, Chief Quality Officer, GHA. Mrs. Miller possesses over 12 years of experience in the daily management of international healthcare facilities, international business development, proven leadership in change management, and the implementation of continuous quality improvement models in various countries. Miller Sallah is also considered an expert in the field of Medical Tourism, specifically in Best Practices, International Standards, and the operational development of International, Global Patient Services, Medical Tourism or Medical Travel programs.

Dr. Paul Van Ostenberg, Chairman of the Standards Committee, GHA. Dr. Ostenberg has over 30 years of international leadership in health care quality, patient safety, health care accreditation and standards development. Most recently he held senior management positions at Joint Commission International (JCI) including Senior Advisor, Global Growth and Innovation and Vice President for International Accreditation, Standards, and Measurement and was the first Managing Director for the JCI Asia Pacific Office in Singapore, and the first Managing Director for the JCI European office.

Jangar RichardsMHSA, former Director of Operations Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Ms. Jangar has over 15 years of experience in various roles in healthcare and hospital operations, managed care, consulting, project management and strategic planning.

Anne Rooney RN, MS, MPH brings over 30 years of clinical and executive management experience to her role as a consultant and surveyor, including expertise in quality improvement and patient safety. For more than 25 years she held a variety of management positions within The Joint Commission organization, most recently as Vice President – Global Consulting, for Joint Commission Resources and Joint Commission International (JCI).

Stephen Shearer B.S. is healthcare consultant for over 30 years, Mr. Shearer has a passion for supporting accessible quality healthcare and enjoys working in the global environment. Stephen has provided healthcare consultation and training to multiple healthcare settings including: hospitals, ambulatory clinics, physician practices and residential living programs. He has taught courses sponsored by the United States government, by Joint Commission and by colleges for continuing education courses.

Joseph Williamson, RDMS, serves as the medical manager for two 24-hour high-volume, multi-functional imaging centers that medically support a host of obstetric, maternal-fetal, invasive, pediatrics/neonatal, perinatal physicians, in the Washington DC area. He has over three decades of clinical experience and two decades of international healthcare consulting, education and training. His primary focus is with Hospital Groups in Africa and the Caribbean.

According to GHA surveyor Ann Jacobson, “As someone who has been intimately involved in healthcare administration, quality improvement and patient safety for the last 30 years, I welcome the opportunity to be a part of GHA’s Surveyor team; and I look forward to sharing my knowledge and expertise in helping healthcare providers improve their International or Global Patient services program for medical travelers.”

 

5 Resources for Improving the Patient Experience for Medical Travelers

Patients face unique challenges when seeking care in a different country or region. There may be fear of the unknown, long flights, cultural and language barriers, and being away from friends and family – all while preparing for a major surgery or treatment. Healthcare providers treating medical travelers have the difficult yet rewarding responsibility of ensuring a positive patient experience across a Medical Travel Care Continuum™ that includes arrival at the destination, pre and post-operative stages, billing, medical record transfer and aftercare.

Here are 5 resources that any medical travel program can use to improve or enhance the patient experience for medical travelers. Several resources have been created by internationally recognized organizations whom advocate for patient-centered care, patient safety and continuous quality improvement.

1. Planetree Patient Centered Care Environmental Audit. The tool provided by Planetree, the global leader in advancing person-centered care, was created to evaluate how the physical environment of a healthcare delivery organization supports or interferes with the delivery of patient-centered care, with a particular focus on barriers and/or facilitators of:
• Compassionate human interactions
• Access to information
• Patient and family engagement
• Patient privacy, dignity and modesty
• A supportive staff environment

2. Achieving an Exceptional Patient and Family Experience of Inpatient Hospital Care. This white paper, created by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, provides insight into a project that identified the five primary drivers of exceptional patient and family inpatient hospital experience of care: leadership, staff hearts and minds, respectful partnership, reliable care; and evidence-based care.

*Source: Balik B, Conway J, Zipperer L, Watson J. Achieving an Exceptional Patient and Family Experience of Inpatient Hospital Care. IHI Innovation Series white paper. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2011. (Available on www.IHI.org)

3. Picker Institute’s Always Events® Creating an Optimal Patient Experience. Picker Institute adopted an organizing principle focused on the concept of Always Events®. Always Events® are defined as “those aspects of the patient and family experience that should always occur when patients interact with healthcare professionals and the delivery system.” The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is honored to have been chosen by The Picker Institute to assume the work of Always Events® when The Picker Institute closed its doors at the end of 2012. Picker transferred their Always Events® trademark and programmatic goals to IHI, effective January 1, 2013.

4. Cultural Assessment Tool. The American Nursing Association via Nursingworld.org published a paper authored by Joyceen S. Boyle and Margaret M. Andrews that provided a cultural assessment tool for healthcare organizations or professionals when considering the patient experience.

5. Patient Experience Toolkit. The Nursing Executive Center’s holistic strategy for improving the patient experience has three parts: cultivating caregiver empathy, overcoming universal process barriers to a patient- and family-centered experience, and diagnosing institution-specific process barriers. This toolkit provides seven tools that equip nurse leaders to bring the holistic strategy to life within their institutions.

 

Global Healthcare Accreditation Announces Inaugural Advisory Board

The Global Health Accreditation® (GHA) Program, the first independent accrediting body focused on medical travel services and the medical travel patient experience, today announces an inaugural advisory board that will help guide the organization as it seeks to improve the patient experience and excellence of care received by patients who travel for their medical care and treatment, whether within their own country or internationally.

The GHA program complements existing national and international clinical accreditation programs and offers an Accreditation with Excellence designation to those organizations having accreditation from an ISQua approved accrediting body. While these programs traditionally focus on the clinical aspects of care for the entire organization, GHA conducts a deep review of the International or Global Patient Services program or the entity within an organization that serves the medical travel patient.

According to Karen Timmons, CEO of GHA, “Global Healthcare Accreditation optimizes the Medical Travel Care Continuum™ and supports healthcare providers in validating quality and patient experience, increasing visibility, and implementing sustainable business practices for medical travel. An important value-added component of our accreditation services is the inclusion of embedded business solutions designed to help an organization improve its performance, thus providing an immediate return on investment. The advisory board that we have assembled is truly exemplary in their individual and combined expertise in a wide-range of healthcare fields that impact the medical traveler’s experience. We are pleased to welcome such experienced and capable professionals to the GHA Advisory Board.”

The Global Healthcare Accreditation Advisory Board consists of fourteen leaders representing a diverse group of stakeholders, including healthcare providers, insurance companies, population health management, patient advocacy, employee benefits risk management, and medical travel facilitation:

Dr. Nizar Zein, Chairman, Global Patient Services, Cleveland Clinic
Dr. Erik Fleischman, International Medical Director, Bumrungrad International Hospital
Aileen R. Killen RN, PHD, CPPS, Global Head of Healthcare Risk Consulting, American International Group (AIG)
Larry Boress, President & CEO, Midwest Business Group on Health
Dr. Jose Quesada, Chief Medical Officer for Global Health Benefits, Cigna
Dr. Omar Shalabi, Division Head for the Central & Western Regions, Management Population Health Division, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare
Noam Baruch, Head of Passport to Healthcare, AETNA International
Prof. Anupam Sibal, Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals Group
Chip Burgett, Managing Director, Quandry Healthcare Solutions
Susan Frampton, PhD, President, Planetree International
Laurent Pochat-Cottilloux, Global Head of Health Reinsurance Partnerships, AXA
Joseph Zhao, Deputy General Manager, Beijing Saint Lucia Consulting Pty Ltd
Muna Almuallen, Sr. Manager International Benefits, Fluor
Amy Villalobos, General Manager, NIB Options

According to Dr. Nizar Zein, Chairman of Global Patient Services, Cleveland Clinic, “As medical travel continues to grow, it is incumbent on healthcare providers to consistently implement professional norms that promote a safe and high quality patient experience throughout the entire care continuum. I welcome the opportunity to be a part of the Global Healthcare Accreditation’s distinguished advisory board and I look forward to supporting its efforts to enhance the quality of care and patient experience for medical travel patients.”

Laurant Pochat-Cottillox, Global Head of Health Reinsurance Partnerships, AXA stated, “Having developed and managed cross-border healthcare products in the insurance industry for many years, I understand first-hand the challenges faced by medical travelers. There are cultural and language barriers, concerns about the quality of care, as well as navigating all the details that go into planning a trip. I commend the Global Healthcare Accreditation program for its focus on enhancing and validating the quality of care provided by hospitals and clinics in the medical travel industry, as well the patient experience along the entire medical travel care continuum and I’m excited to participate on its advisory board in support of its unique mission.”

The Advisory Board will advise Global Healthcare Accreditation on current trends and challenges in the industry, ongoing standards development, service offerings, and launch markets.

 

Don’t Let Money Ruin A Great Medical Travel Experience

For patients, the process of paying for healthcare services is often a stressful one. Will my insurance cover X treatment? What is the deductible and co-pay? Why do costs vary so much from one provider to the other for the same treatment? These same issues are compounded in medical travel due to the increased risk of miscommunication, misrepresentation or lack of trust stemming from distance, cultural/language differences, the variances of currencies between countries, and the frequent use of intermediaries.

To avoid having pricing and financial policies (or a lack thereof) highjack the patient experience, take the following steps:

Be transparent
First and foremost there needs to be transparency in pricing and the terms and conditions that apply. Patients and buyers of healthcare should know up front what treatments or procedure packages include; what the likely charges will be; and what conditions or circumstances could lead to additional expenses. For example, will airport pick-up/drop-off and transfers be included in the cost of the package? If so, how many? What if the companion needs to travel back and forth between the hospital and the hotel? Will this be covered? Are post-discharge medications included? What happens if a patient spends twice the time in surgery than was expected or had a medical complication, who will be responsible for the additional charges?

Granted, not all healthcare providers offer bundled packages (most U.S. hospitals do not – though this is slowly changing), nor is it a simple matter to predict with precision the cost of certain treatments due to the many variables involved (think cancer). Regardless of that fact, our commitment to our patients should motivate us to provide a price range or estimate based on historical data for a particular procedure or treatment and clarify what is included or excluded from their course of treatment. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to provide medical travelers with a realistic assessment of potential costs, while identifying those scenarios that could lead to additional charges.

Consider the payment process from the medical traveler’s perspective
Take a look at your current financial policies. Are they aligned with the needs of medical travelers or were they developed for local patients? If it is the latter, you may need to make some adjustments to reduce the likelihood of negative situations occurring.

The best way to gauge the impact of your financial policies on the medical traveler experience is to solicit candid feedback from your patients. Ask questions, review past patient satisfaction scores and scour your comment boxes. Pay attention to any comments or complaints regarding pricing, billing or the payment process. This is a quick and effective way to identify problem areas or gaps in your financial processes and will give everyone in your organization a broader perspective of what is actually happening rather than what they think is happening.

Once you identify problem areas, ask yourself what you can do differently to make the process more convenient or understandable for medical travelers. Perhaps the data will lead you to create bundled packages or include or remove certain services or materials. More often than not, you will find that the most important thing you need to do is improve your communication skills.

Communication and education
To ensure the expectations of medical travelers are aligned with reality, it is important to communicate and educate patients about your financial policies, particularly through your emails, website, brochures and phone conversations. Never assume that the patient knows something unless you have sent the information in writing and confirmed that the patient has received it and understands it. For example:

• Cancellation and refund policies should be communicated across different channels such as your website, social media channels and email correspondence.

• Payment options should be clearly explained and patients should be made aware of instances where a transaction could generate charges apart from those billed by the provider (e.g. credit card transactions or traveler’s checks).

• Specify how long quoted pricing is valid.

• Communicate to medical travelers in advance what your policy is with regards to extra expenses from medical complications or longer hospital stays.

• Be clear about the different payment options available. Also be sure to provide an explanation or instructions for each payment method. For example: which credit cards are accepted, bank wiring instructions, and the fact that there may be restrictions on the amount of cash you can bring in or take out of the country.

• If patients are paying by credit card, encourage them to inform their bank before they travel. Also let your patients know that some banks charge fees for overseas credit card charges.

• Communicate your organization’s policy regarding nonpayment in advance (e.g., you enlist a collection agency’s help after three months of nonpayment).

Frequent communication with patients will help clear up any misconceptions about the payment process and will reduce the number of problems that turn into fires that need to be extinguished.

Remember, medical travel can be intimidating for patients. There are travel details to be arranged in the midst of managing an illness or medical condition. Patients are often not familiar with the new environment and may feel disoriented and confused. They are often confronted by language barriers and cultural differences that can lead to misunderstandings. The last thing medical travelers want to endure is a complex payment process or unclear terms and conditions. By being transparent about your pricing, adjusting your financial policies to fit the needs of traveling patients and keeping patients updated and well-informed, you will be improving a very important part of the medical travel experience.

 

The Importance of Empathy in Medical Travel

Increasingly, healthcare providers are operating in a multicultural environment characterized by interactions with patients who hold different values, world-views and perhaps even differing perspectives and practices regarding their health and wellness. This reality across providers can lead to challenges in providing culturally competent and respectful care.

Take the case of Latin American, Asian or Middle Eastern patients traveling to the U.S. for care. These patients will have to interact with a culture that is often more direct, individualistic and independent than their own. These opportunities for interactions can set the stage for misunderstandings, anxiety and a poor medical travel experience. For example:

• Many Hispanic patients are strong advocates of folk and herbal treatments, which may frustrate American doctors who have been educated to primarily rely on orthodox medicine. 1
• Certain patients from Asia may find it disrespectful to make eye contact with doctors or other authority figures. Western doctors may mistakenly think that the patient is not interested in what he/she has to say or is simply not paying attention.2
• It is common for women in Arab cultures to defer to their husbands for important healthcare decisions. In some instances, they will only allow a woman doctor to treat them.3

Patients from various cultures may become upset or uncommunicative if healthcare professionals ignore or belittle their beliefs and social norms. Health care providers can avoid or minimize these types of situations when they have an awareness of the unique cultural beliefs and background of their patients.

How do you feel?

An often overlooked but critically important factor in the medical travel experience is empathy. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” Studies have shown that empathy can be an important skill for healthcare providers and is often associated with improved clinical outcomes.

If you have ever stopped to help an older individual struggling to cross a busy intersection or simply sat down with a neighbor as they wept for the loss of a loved one, then you have probably felt empathy. Empathy in a clinical context is determined by a healthcare provider’s ability to understand patients’ emotions, which can facilitate a more accurate diagnosis and more caring treatment. In practical terms, if we try to understand the perspective of others, we are more able to display socially appropriate and compassionate behaviors. Empathy is important in any healthcare setting but is particularly essential in medical travel where patients face numerous challenges – real and perceived – related to having been dropped into an unfamiliar environment.

Unfamiliar environments can present challenges that may include:
• Concerns about being able to communicate effectively with medical staff due to potential language and culture barriers;
• Ability to observe cultural and religious practices during the hospital stay;
• Potential concerns about the treating physician’s qualifications;
• Lack of knowledge about their legal recourse in case something goes wrong;
• In certain instances, anxiety over what family, friends, or even their primary doctor may think about their decision to travel abroad for medical care;
• Concerns about finances and being charged more that quoted for the treatment;
• Lack of understanding about the medical travel process.

The first step to achieving empathy is to put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Ask yourself, what would you feel if you were traveling abroad for medical care? What fears and concerns would you have? Take time to listen to the medical travelers you are caring for to learn about their experiences and challenges.

Sorry, those are the Rules

Perhaps it is your hospital’s policy not to allow family members or companions in the recovery room immediately after surgery. While there are certainly valid reasons for this policy, did you ever stop to consider what a medical travel patient may feel when he/she wakes up in a daze, in a cold room, with people speaking a strange language? Or the anxiety of the family member or companion in a waiting room wondering about the wellbeing of their loved one? Understanding and being empathetic to traveling patients’ unique circumstances should motivate executives leading medical travel or international services lines to revisit policies and procedures to ensure they are promoting a positive and safe patient experience.

Common sense tells us that engaging in effective empathetic communication with international patients will lead to a better medical travel experience. How so?

• It builds trust between the patient and healthcare provider
• It may help the patient disclose information
• It enhances patient satisfaction
• It involves the patient more fully in health decision making
• Studies have shown that it leads to better outcomes 4

Understanding Empathy for Medical Travelers

A recent article published by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine called “Seeking medical care abroad: A challenge to empathy” provides an interesting overview and broad perspective on empathy in the care setting for patients that travel for medical care. The author, Dr. Nizar N. Zein not only draws upon his research, personal experience as a physician and professional insight at Cleveland Clinic’s Chairman of Global Patient Services.

 

Best Practices for Managing Travel in Medical Travel

One aspect that separates the medical travel industry from other forms of healthcare delivery is the travel component. Medical travel patients very frequently have to fly long distances to reach the destination and do so when they may have compromised health conditions. Medical travelers also may have chosen a destination based partially on what the area provides in terms of tourist attractions and a vacation experience. Alternatively, the reason for medical travel may also be motivated based on self-insured employers including medical travel as part of their plan benefits to employees.

Historically, travel and tourism have not been a core competency of most clinical providers. To support the medical travel experience fully, it is important that clinical providers are aware of and use best practices from both the healthcare and hospitality fields. Making the effort to merge best practices in healthcare and hospitality can promote and support a safer and more convenient travel experience.

Several important recommendations for medical travelers and providers have been included below:

Know Your Destination. Know what is going on in the destination you have selected. Is there political, safety, public health matters or holidays occurring that may interrupt your travel plans or require additional preparation from the medical traveler or intended provider? Some great resources to consider are the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention along with destination specific tourism websites.

Consequences in Itinerary Changes. It is common for medical travelers to interact with many vendors such as hotels, transportation, airlines – in addition to the healthcare organization, unless their medical trip is being managed solely by the receiving facility or a facilitator. From a financial standpoint, it is very important to understand what constitutes reasons for cancellations and refunds as well as any increase in expected charges for changes.

Every Medical Question is IMPORTANT. Medical travel creates a unique scenario where clinical providers are often assessing and/or prepping a patient prior to an actual visual or physical examination. Any questions a medical traveler may have – along with an organization being proactive in sharing information about an expected procedure – is critically important to a successful medical travel outcome.

Familiarity with Culture and Language. Medical travelers need patient education materials in their language of choice or primary language to be adequately informed. Providers and healthcare organizations also require medical information in their language of priority. The importance of contextually appropriate and accurate information in medical travel cannot be emphasized enough. Healthcare organizations are encouraged to ensure contextual appropriate information considers the cultural appropriateness of information as well.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected. While the field of medicine comes with its inherent risks, we all know the travel industry can provide its fair share of surprises. From cancelled flights to overbooked hotels, patients are at the mercy of hundreds of variables that can impact their medical trip. There may also be circumstances when a physician will recommend a longer hospital stay than was originally anticipated. This could be due to a medical complication or simply because the patient is not healing as quickly as expected. In other instances a physician may ask the patient to spend a few extra days in their hotel recuperating. In either case it is important for medical travelers to be aware that they may be responsible for additional charges, especially if they do not have insurance coverage. The inclusion of travel insurance specific to medical emergencies, flight cancellations, and lost luggage, among many other possibilities is highly encouraged for all medical travelers.

 

The Quiet Leader in Medical Travel

Through the journey of a patient across the medical travel care continuum, one specific role is often a constant. Around the world, the profession of nursing has maintained a long and integral role in the delivery of care. The modern understanding of the profession encounters greater relevance now more than ever. To put it simply – without nursing, the realities of managing the medical travel care continuum would be nearly impossible.

Very few would debate the fact that nurses spend more time in direct contact with patients than physicians do and/or any other stakeholder while moving across the care continuum. In particular, nurses play a critical role in a medical traveler’s perception of quality of care and the overall experience at a destination.

For organizations considering the expansion of their brand globally or who are emphasizing a particular service line, nursing leadership must be prioritized as it has a significant impact on a healthcare organization’s culture and it is where the basic principles of caring and professionalism are consistently displayed.

Nurses also represent the most important professional in the medical travel care continuum who by nature and through training, often anticipate a patient’s need beyond the treatment being received. For the medical travel care continuum, nurses are the front-line as well as the backbone of patient care delivered.

Demands of Nursing in Medical Travel

Medical travelers will often encounter a different experience than the average patient-seeking healthcare services due to the increased demands from logistics, realities of travel before and after healthcare procedures, cultural differences and at times, the unfamiliarity of the destination. When you consider the challenges of managing medical travelers along with the high expectations of being a nurse, one truly has to acknowledge that nurses in medical travel programs experience one of the most demanding professions in the world and require a high level of commitment and dedication to their job and patients.

Nurses balance and fill a number of roles across the medical travel care continuum. They act as a companions, caregivers, and teachers and are the true navigators of the medical travel care continuum. For certain, the industry would collapse without nurses leading and supporting the delivery of care across the medical travel care continuum. Depending on where a patient may be traveling from or why he or she is traveling, a nurse can take on various roles based on the unique needs of medical travel patients. These roles include:

Communicator & Educator: Nurses often act as an educator or teacher in the interest of delivering effective communication. Many stakeholders globally acknowledge that effective communication across a care continuum can improve and promote positive outcomes for patients. Patients and their support system often have to retain a significant amount of new information to understand their recovery process as well as the preparation process prior to travel. This “information-overload” can overwhelm patients and companions and cause undue anxiety and stress. Nurses can function as a buffer to ensure patients and companions are not overwhelmed, while at the same time communicating important information in a timely and compassionate manner.

Patient Advocate: Advocating for a patient is widely recognized as one of the most important services a nurse can provide to a patient and a healthcare organization focused on medical travel. Topics such as patient rights are critical under this role, in particular because a medical travel patient may feel especially vulnerable and anxious due to the stress associated with travel and having to face a new environment – if not a strange culture and language. This role is a prioritized topic under the Patient Hospitality Experience competency within the standards recognized by the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA).

Culturally Competent Care Manager: The care provided to a medical travel patient should always focus on the unique needs and requirements of each patient and will require varying degrees of skills, attention and strategies to provide total care and, in particular, cultural competent care. Nurses are particularly inclined to care for their patients holistically. Holistic care can be defined as healing the whole person versus treating a specific disease pathology or completing an individual procedure. For medical travelers encountering a new destination or a new culture as part of their medical travel experience, culturally competent care across the entire medical travel care continuum is critical to delivering a positive medical travel experience. Additionally, the overall care management processes should be connected and seamless to ensure a successful medical travel outcome.

4 Ways to Measure Medical Travel Success

When asked, “How is your Global Patient Services Program”? – What do you say? Do you know what to say…confidently?

If you are like most, starting a program or navigating the waters of the current medical travel industry, one is inclined to follow the trends or target markets without firm data to justify your decisions. Often, as you can expect, these decisions can come back to bite you.

In the medical travel industry, it is very hard to compare one program to another or one market to another due to a lack of clear consensus on industry definitions along with a lack of transparency and hard data from stakeholders working in the industry. There are many terms which encompass the medical travel industry, including:

• Global Patient Services
• Global Healthcare Services
• International Patient Services
• Medical Tourism
• Medical Travel Services
• Medical Destination Services
• Centers of Excellence

There may be erroneous reporting on the number of medical travelers seeking care at a particular hospital or destination simply because as there is no consensus as to how to refer to this patient segment. Some healthcare providers may use the term international patient while others may call them foreign patients or healthcare travelers. A foreign resident may be counted as a medical traveler even though he or she “travelled” two blocks to the healthcare facility.

Additionally, few healthcare providers are actually tracking medical travelers as a separate entity in their systems or, much less, reporting these statistics. Sadly, no one can actually say, the average growth rate of medical travel programs is X% in a specific market or typically grows Y% over a 5 – 7 year period. How you can tell if your medical travel service line is really thriving? Benchmark.

Compare your program to others in the industry. In other industries companies can often assess the health of their company by comparing key metrics, gross revenue, volume growth and various other performance indicators, including patient satisfaction. As mentioned above, the dilemma in the medical travel industry is a lack of clear definitions along with a lack of transparency from global competitors.

In 2016, the Global Healthcare Accreditation ® (GHA) Program enters the medical travel industry – the first independent accrediting body to focus on the medical travel care continuum. The competencies that GHA promotes are focused in three core areas which have standards related to each. These three core areas include:

• Patient-Focused Clinical Processes
• The Patient Experience
• Sustainable Business Processes

Aside from meeting compliance with GHA standards, new as well as established programs can find several ways to benchmark or gauge their performance. Here are four ways you can find data for benchmarking your medical travel service line:

Ask other program leaders. Form alliances with similar programs to yours, but located in other markets, so that you don’t compete directly. Agree to share information – this creates an immediate opportunity to understand, explore and compare.

Attend industry events. Is there a better way to connect with other program leaders than to attend events where several of your industry peers may also be present? Medical travel events occur all over the globe and are increasingly encompassing a broad range of subject matter. For example, medical travel initiatives often cover everything from “use of technology in healthcare” to “economic initiatives for governments” to “creative ways to subsidize local care by attracting foreign patients to a particular destination.”

Ask an industry trade association. Industry trade associations often gather information from their membership, surveys and reports and/or offer access to individuals or resources with current information. Keep in mind that there are differing viewpoints as to how the medical travel industry is expected to perform over the next 5 to 10 years; so make sure to consult a trade association with a proven track record of working with a wide range of stakeholders. It is also important to find common denominators in these opinions and apply your understand to your individual business model.

Develop KPIs specific to Medical Travel. The GHA Program offers guidance within its standards and requires ongoing reporting of KPIs unique to an individual organization. Most healthcare organizations, because they are complex businesses irrespective of the services they provide, maintain robust financial performance indicators. It is important to apply the same interest and commitment to healthcare quality indicators to a medical travel service program as it is to understand the bottom line contribution of a medical travel service program.