Accreditation in Medical Travel Becoming a Key Differentiator for Healthcare Providers

Palm Beach Gardens, FL, April 25, 2018 –(PR.com)— Vejthani Hospital (https://www.vejthani.com/) in Bangkok, Thailand has been awarded a three-year term of “Accreditation with Excellence” by the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) Program (http://globalhealthcareaccreditation.com/) for its Medical Travel Services Program.

Numerous reports including recent ones by Healthgrades, Accenture and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicate that a high-quality patient experience is important to patients and can positively impact both a patient’s wellbeing as we as a healthcare provider’s finances. For healthcare providers treating medical travelers, the patient experience is especially important due to its complexity and must be carefully managed both inside and outside the clinical setting. Medical travelers face unique challenges that impact the patient experience including language and cultural barriers and difficulties related to travel and orientation in a foreign environment.

In 2016, the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) Program was established with the goal of enhancing the patient experience for medical travelers across the entire Medical Travel Care Continuum. GHA provides concrete and measurable value to patients by ensuring that the hospital or clinic has instituted processes that are customized to the medical travelers’ unique needs and expectations and are constantly monitored for improvement. Additionally, GHA provides healthcare organizations with a unique opportunity to not only acquire skills and competencies designed to strengthen their medical travel services, but also impact business performance. GHA has accredited internationally recognized healthcare providers in a number of countries including the United States, Mexico, Croatia, and Thailand.

Vejathani Hospital is the second hospital accredited by the GHA program in Thailand. According to Dr. Soucksakit, Chief Executive Officer at Vejthani Hospital, “As an international hospital, we provide high-quality care and a superior customer experience based on international standards. We have validated our clinical expertise by previously achieving Joint Commission International accreditation, including certifications for five Clinical Care Programs. Most recently, we had the distinction of achieving “Accreditation with Excellence” by Global Healthcare Accreditation, which focuses on enhancing the medical travel care continuum for traveling patients. GHA accreditation was the missing piece which affirms our pride to be an exceptional care provider to all medical travelers along their journey.”

Karen Timmons, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Healthcare Accreditation Program stated, “We congratulate Vejthani Hospital for achieving Accreditation with Excellence and for continually striving to deliver high quality and culturally competent care to its diverse patient populations. Traveling patients and payers are increasingly demanding a high quality patient experience. GHA seeks to assure that the patient is actively engaged and that the organization is proactive in managing cultural sensitivities and communication at each touch point along this Medical Travel Care Continuum.  With a focus on the entire medical travel care continuum, patient experience and sustainable business practices – GHA seeks to provide both short term and long term value to our clients, whom we view as strategic partners.”

Additionally, GHA reviews business functions and processes related to medical travel. Because GHA focuses on the entire Medical Travel Care Continuum, those business functions within an organization that impact the medical travel program, such as marketing, finance, and technology are enhanced.

According to Dr. Somporn Kumphang, Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Expert Group and GHA’s representative in Thailand, “Healthcare providers in Thailand understand GHA’s unique value in improving the patient experience both inside and outside the clinical setting and how it complements other clinical accreditations. Vejthani Hospital is one of Thailand’s premier healthcare providers, yet it was not content to rest on past accomplishments. Instead, the hospital worked hard to prepare for GHA accreditation and ensure its services and protocols align with the needs and expectations of its many traveling patient populations. I am excited about the future of medical travel in Thailand, one of the world’s top medical travel destinations, and GHA’s role in ensuring medical travelers have a safe and high-quality patient experience.”

About Vejthani Hospital:

Serving over 300,000 patients from over 100 countries annually with over 200 inpatient beds, Vejthani Hospital was established in 1994 and is one of the leading private international hospitals in Thailand. The hospital boasts over 300 specialists across multiple specialties, providing a comprehensive range of medical services. For more information about Vejthani Hospital, contact: +66(0)2-734-0000 ext.2812 or email: [email protected].

About the Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) Program:

The Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) Program is an independent accrediting body that 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. 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 also provides advisory and custom education services for organizations interested in improving their medical travel program and/or business performance.

Organizations interested in The Global Healthcare Accreditation Program can make a request at [email protected] |Tel US 001.561.327.9557 |www.GlobalHealthcareAccreditation.com

 

*Medical travel is also commonly known as medical tourism or health tourism. 

Are You Using SIT’s in Your Medical Travel Program?

Standardized information templates (SIT’s) are a quick and easy way to improve operational efficiency and the patient experience, regardless of the stage of development of your medical travel program. Traveling patients are often seeking information and price estimates from multiple healthcare providers, the quicker you are able to respond with information that is relevant to their needs, the likelier it is that you will gain their trust. [1]

For the purpose of this article, a “standardized information template” can be defined as a preset format for a document or other digital media containing information that can be reused multiple times with little or no modification. It may be a stand-alone MS Word or PDF document or information available online or via a mobile app. SIT’s are especially useful during the initial contact and planning phases when potential medical travelers require information from healthcare providers to make a decision and the latter require information from the patient to confirm if they are candidates for the requested treatment or procedure.

For instance:

Medical travelers will want to know about their treatment plan.

  • What are the potential risks of the treatment or surgery?
  • What type of medications and supplements should I stop taking before my trip?
  • How long should I be fasting before my tests?
  • What should I take with me on the day of my surgery?

Medical travelers will want to know about travel logistics.

  • Do I need a visa for my trip?
  • How much do the flights cost?
  • Who is going to pick me up at the airport and transfer me to and from the hospital and hotel?
  • What accommodation options are available?
  • Does the recommended hotel offer handicap accessible rooms? Do they offer special diets? Is nursing care available?
  • What should I pack?

Medical travelers may also want to know about the destination, its culture, traditions and potential safety concerns.

  • What languages do people speak?
  • Is the water safe to drink?
  • Where is the nearest embassy?
  • Are there any interesting places my companion and I can visit before my treatment?

As a healthcare provider, you will need to request information from prospective patients such as:

  • Medical history
  • Diagnostic reports and tests
  • Insurance information
  • Financial information

If you are a healthcare provider managing a low volume of traveling patients, you may be able to get away with your staff creating information on the fly – again, again and again. However, once your medical travel patient volume begins to increase, this situation will become untenable unless you have a quick and efficient mechanism for requesting and providing information.

An easy solution to efficiently manage this exchange of information is to have forms and information templates available that can be used to quickly and accurately inform and educate medical travelers about the details of their treatment and trip, as well as help healthcare providers gather the necessary information they need to screen patients prior to acceptance.

Which SIT’s should healthcare providers create?

You are probably using many standardized information templates already or perhaps different staff members are using information that has not yet been identified formally as a standardized template. Talk to physicians, nurses and staff involved with your medical travel program for their feedback. Ask them: “What information do your traveling patients regularly request or need? What information do you typically request from traveling patients?”

Below are a few examples of forms and templates healthcare providers may want to use to efficiently manage the initial contact and planning stages of the medical travel care continuum:

  • Medical procedure/treatment templates
    The title says it all. However, it is important to make sure that the treatment information is adapted for the needs of medical travel patients. For example, specifying how many days the patient should remain in the hospital as well as in the country. Some healthcare providers may also include a price estimate or range along with the description. If you chose to do so, make sure to include a disclaimer along the lines of “This is only a general estimate. A final price quote will be provided once the physician has reviewed your medical history.”
  • Medical history questionnaire
    Whether online or in document form, the medical history questionnaire for medical travelers should be especially comprehensive in order to ensure prospective patients – who may be traveling from hundreds or thousands of miles away, are candidates for the treatment they are requesting. Some healthcare providers may also include questions related to medical travel such as: “Expected departure date?” “Length of Stay?” and “Do you have a passport?”
  • Patient bill of rights
    While this is technically not an information template that you would modify on a regular basis, a document with patient rights and responsibilities should be available in the patients language of choice and provided to patients prior to travel.
  • Credit card authorization form/Wire transfer information
    Used to charge traveling patients a deposit for their medical procedure.
  • Price consent form
    Used to confirm in writing that the patient is in agreement with the price that will be charged for the treatment or package, and is aware that medical complications or additional care may be charged extra.
  •  “What to expect” information
    As the name suggests, this information should include a fairly detailed overview of the medical travel care continuum with the goal of informing patients and answering common questions. For example: On the day after your arrival you will be picked-up at your hotel by a hospital representative and transported to the hospital. At admissions you will be met by our international staff. Please make sure to bring your passport and refrain from bringing any valuables unless strictly necessary.
  • Recommended accommodation options
    This is simply a list of hotels or apartments recommended by your organization. Some healthcare providers may prefer to include detailed descriptions while others may only include links to the hotels’ websites.
  • Safety information
    A document or webpage that includes recommendations and advice about how patients can stay safe in your country or city including advisories by a particular embassy, government or tourism ministry.
  • Destination information
    General information about your city or country including entry requirements, local currency information, climate, shopping, restaurants and tourism information.
  • Packing list
    Important items that patients should bring on their trip, both for clinical purposes as well as for general travel needs.
  • Pre and post-surgery indications
    A list of indications for the pre and post-surgery process designed to ensure a safe medical procedure and optimal post-surgical recovery.

It’s not brain surgery but…

Creating SIT’s is pretty straightforward, however, there are some important things to keep in mind which also apply to all communication with patients:

  • Try not to overload your emails with information
    • Break up information into short paragraphs with bolded headings
    • Include links to more lengthy information available online
    • Use attachments when necessary as long as they are not extremely large files (these may compromise email delivery)
  • The information should be relevant or customized to the prospect’s request/needs
    • SIT’s are great, but they need to be adapted to the prospect’s or the patient’s particular circumstances. For example, a price estimate for a certain procedure may indicate an in-country recovery of 7 days. However, a particular patient may present some comorbidities that require a longer stay.
  • The information should be available in the prospect’s preferred language
  • Avoid using complex medical terminology as much as possible. Plain language makes it easier for everyone to understand and use health information.[2]
  • Private health information should be transferred in accordance with data privacy laws that are applicable to the patient’s home country as well as to the destination healthcare provider.

What are the benefits of using standardized information templates?

The ability of healthcare providers to provide timely responses with information that is relevant to their medical travelers’ needs will ultimately enhance the patient experience. Using standardized information templates provides additional benefits as well, including:

Consistency. Utilizing standardized information templates ensures consistency across all your communication channels regardless of who is answering.

Reduction in errors. Have you ever sent a document only to realize that certain information was missing? Templates can reduce those mistakes by ensuring a consistent rundown of points to include.

Speed. SIT’s allow staff to respond quickly.

Save time, by allowing staff to automate repetitive tasks.

If you are interested in learning more about best practices in medical travel, sign up for our monthly newsletter. Just send an email to [email protected] with “GHA Newsletter” in the subject line.

[1] Sinha, R. Effective Communication Helps Building Trust and Improving Performance of A Service Industry: A Literature Review and Theory Building. Indian Journal of Research. (2014). Retrieved at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265164033_Are_Effective_Communication_Helps_Building_Trust_and_Improving_Performance_of_A_Service_Industry_A_Literature_Review_and_Theory_Building on March 25, 2018

[2] Plain Language Materials and Resources. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/developmaterials/plainlanguage.html on March 25, 2018.

 

 

*Medical travel is also commonly known as medical tourism or health tourism.

GHA Makes an Impact at the 10th World Medical Tourism Congress – Los Angeles, California

The Global Healthcare Accreditation® (GHA) program made its presence felt at the 10th World Medical Tourism Congress held in Los Angeles, California between October 2 – 4, 2017. The event is the most prestigious international healthcare conference and tradeshow in the industry bringing attendees from across the world to collaborate and advance the industry. Healthcare providers, insurance companies, governments, employers, wellness companies, and medical tourism facilitators are just some of the many stakeholders who came to network, learn and share best practices in medical travel, employer benefits and corporate wellness.

4 Healthcare Facilities on Three Continents Achieve Accreditation by GHA

On October 3rd, Karen Timmons, CEO of the GHA Program presented one of the opening keynotes: “The Clarion Call for Excellence: A New Era of Health Consumers,” which focused on the new era of consumerism, propelled by rapidly evolving technology which has dramatically impacted consumer experience. According to Ms. Timmons, “The seamless level of service that consumers have begun to expect has expanded to healthcare, providing greater demands and opportunities for payers and providers to go beyond the expected “satisfaction” to deliver patient experience excellence. Healthcare organizations must focus on ensuring the patient experience is seamless throughout the entire medical travel care continuum, including pre-admission and post-discharge, and that business functions that support medical travel are designed with this in mind. GHA accreditation validates and facilitates excellence in patient experience and sustainable business practices.”

Immediately following her keynote, Ms. Timmons presented award plaques to representatives of three healthcare organizations attending the congress whom had recently achieved Global Healthcare Accreditation by the GHA Program, and announced a fourth. Dr. Erik Fleischman, International Medical Director, accepted on behalf of Bumrungrad International Hospital (BIH) in Thailand; Dr. Nizar Zein, Chairman Global Patient Services, accepted on behalf of Cleveland Clinic Ohio; and Mr. Rafael Carrillo, Managing Director, accepted on behalf of My Spine Center of Clínica Santa Clarita, in Mexico. St. Catherine Specialty Hospital of Zagreb, Croatia, also achieved Global Healthcare Accreditation for Medical Travel Services by the GHA Program.

The GHA Program also sponsored or hosted a number of sessions at the congress including:

The 6th Medical Director Summit “Destination Medicine”

This three-hour summit was an invitation-only event attended by approximately 50 Medical Directors and Chief Quality Officers representing hospitals from around the globe, as well as several insurance companies. Ms. Karen Timmons and six expert speakers presented on the latest trends and challenges in destination medicine and the development of global medical networks. The summit began with a brief welcome by Ms. Timmons, followed with a speech by Mr. Sammy Refua, President of Prive Care, Co-sponsors of the Medical Director Summit.

The first invited speaker was Dr. Peter Angood, President & Chief Executive Officer, of the American Association for Physician Leadership. Dr. Angood gave a lively presentation titled “Developing Physician-Leaders in Medical Travel.” Highlights included managing change, medicine vs. leadership, and leveraging leadership competencies. Dr. Ziad Abdulhak, Senior Medical Advisor, United Arab Emirates Embassy, followed with a discussion on “Key Strategies for Building a Quality Global Medical Network.” Among the strategies he highlighted were factors such as quick access to treatments, international office efficiency, medical center dedication to international patients and servicing their medical needs, cultural competency and the ability to coordinate logistical support. Nizar Zein, MD, Chairman, Global Patient Services, Cleveland Clinic offered a candid look at “lessons learned” from Cleveland Clinic’s recent expansion to Abu Dhabi including impact on population health and challenges related to quality management, partnerships and safeguarding brand reputation. Dr. Eric Fleicshman, International Medical Director, Bumrungrad International Hospital, outlined how Bumrungrad’s efforts to provide Western level medical care resulted in: reverse brain drain, extreme advancement in surgical techniques, rapid advancement in cancer treatment capacity and implementation of Western Quality Assurance programs and certifications. Dr. Ron Leopold, Chief Medical Officer at Lockton Benefit Group provided an insightful and change of pace with his topic: “Five Trends in Health & Wellness and How Employers Should Respond.” Dr. Leopold’s presentation dealt with trends in medical costs, wellbeing, productivity and healthcare delivery. The last speaker was Dr. Omar Shalabi, Division Head, Central & Western Regions Population Health, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare. Dr. Shalabi provided attendees with a detailed look at the unique challenges faced by Jordan in its quest to deliver a high quality patient experience in medical travel. In closing, Ms. Karen Timmons commented on some key takeaways from each presentation and then concluded with a brief overview of the GHA program.

In addition to the 6th Medical Director Summit, GHA leadership participated in several other sessions including:

Driving Quality and Savings with Employer Direct Contracting

Moderated by Ms. Karen Timmons, this session looked at buyer and provider perspectives on direct contracting as well as future trends, opportunities and challenges. The exceptional panel consisted of:

 Mr. Rob Stall, Executive Director of International Operations at Cleveland Clinic,
 Mr. Jerry Fiala Director, Sales & Marketing at Cleveland Clinic and
 Mr. Chip Burgett, Managing Director at Quandary Healthcare Solutions.

Mr. Rob Stall began his presentation with a summary of Cleveland Clinic’s global footprint and international initiatives – particularly in the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Jerry Fiala followed with a look at Cleveland Clinic´s direct contracting initiatives in the U.S., focusing on the benefits to providers which included “offering top-ranked heart care to employees, access efficiencies and savings, predictable bundled case rate, and avoiding variability in outcomes.” Mr. Fiala also highlighted the patient experience as a key component of Cleveland Clinic’s value proposition to employers. Mr. Chip Burgett closed the session with some recommendations for employers considering direct contracting. Mr. Burgett emphasized focusing on “quality measures,” “member engagement” and “minimizing reliance on Preferred Provider Organizations” as important factors to consider when direct contracting with providers.

Medical Destination Reputation Management: How a Single Interaction Can Impact Your Brand

Moderated by Ms. Karen Timmons, the expert panel included Dr. Erik Fleischman, International Medical Director of Bumrungrad International Hospital; Dr. Maan Fares, Vice Chairman of Global Patient Services for Cleveland Clinic, and Mr. Mohammed Al-Hameli, Director of International Patient Care Division of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health. This session focused on how the patient experience and good outcomes lie at the heart of a successful destination strategy in medical travel and what key components provide successful risk management. Transparency, focusing on patient-centered care and having a plan in place to deal with unexpected public relations’ emergencies were some of the key points highlighted in this session. Ms. Timmons stated, “As we have witnessed the past year in the airline industry, reputations can be tarnished instantly in this age of 24/7 social media. Healthcare organizations cannot be complacent and must be prepared to proactively manage their reputations through a keen focus on patient experience, good clinical outcomes and risk management strategies.”

Accreditation in Medical Travel and its Impact on Operational Excellence

This session gathered a panel of representatives from healthcare facilities recently accredited by the GHA Program to discuss their unique perspectives about the GHA Standards, the accreditation process and the value of earning Global Healthcare Accreditation. Mrs. Mary Miller Sallah, GHA’s Chief Quality Officer, moderated the session and began by highlighting GHA’s focus on the patient experience across the entire medical travel care continuum and sustainable business process as key differentiators of the GHA program. She then encouraged panelists to discuss specific ways in which the accreditation process had impacted their organizations. Dr. Erik Fleischman, International Medical Director of Bumrungrad International Hospital commented, “GHA was particularly fitting for our institution as it is the only accreditation that helps assure quality care from the time a patient leaves their home to the time they return after medical care. We are a great hospital. We are even better after GHA.” Dr. Vanessa Felix, Medical Director of My Spine Center of Clínica Santa Clarita stated, “GHA has helped prepare our clinic to anticipate our traveling patients’ needs and expectations, ensuring we provide an exceptional experience before, during and after their visit.” Mr. Kevin Edwards, Nurse Practitioner at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio said, “No matter how great your healthcare facility or positive the procedure outcome, if you mess up on the cultural sensibility required of medical travelers you risk degrading the entire patient experience.” Towards the end of the session, Dr. Somporn Kumphong, CEO of Healthcare Expert Group of Thailand (and a Regional Representative for the GHA Program in Thailand and Japan) spoke about his interactions with hospital leaders in Thailand and discussed the gap in the patient experience, particularly before and after treatment as a challenge for internationally accredited facilities in Thailand.

Final Thoughts

During the congress, GHA Program leadership met with representatives from many healthcare facilities and governments interested in learning more about the GHA program. There was much curiosity and interest in understanding how GHA fit within the context of other international accreditations. GHA Program leadership explained that “GHA Standards complement existing national and international clinical and quality accreditation programs. While these programs traditionally focus on the clinical aspects of care for the entire organization, GHA conducts a deep review of a medical travel program, such as an International/ Global Patient Services program).” There were also some keen discussions regarding key challenges in the industry which GHA strives to address, such as consensus on definitions, data collection and engaging diverse stakeholders to ensure an optimal patient experience for medical travelers.

Mrs. Karen Timmons summed up her impressions about the 10th World Medical Tourism Congress with these words: “Through the sessions we hosted and the many one-on-one meetings with healthcare providers, the congress provided an ideal venue for the GHA Program to showcase its value proposition to a wide international audience. We are very enthusiastic about the interest expressed in the GHA Program and working with the many organizations we met in Los Angeles who expressed interest in streamlining their medical travel care continuum, enhancing patient experience and improving sustainable business practices.

Frontline Staff – Critical to the Medical Travel Experience

Around the world, healthcare consumers are becoming more savvy, payers are demanding high-quality care, and research groups have found more and more convincing evidence as to why the ability to prioritize and manage the patient experience is so important to a positive overall healthcare experience. There is also a growing body of evidence that a great patient experience improves financial performance. According to a recent report by Accenture, a well-known strategy and consulting organization: “A superior customer experience doesn’t just strengthen patient engagement — it also correlates to 50 percent higher hospital margins.”1

Enhancing the patient experience is especially important in medical travel due to the hospitality and travel components that must be managed across the medical travel care continuum. A hospital or clinic may have great healthcare outcomes but still fall short of delivering a high-quality patient experience. Potential potholes on the road to achieving a high-quality patient experience in medical travel include:

• Prospects or patients getting lost on your website or not finding relevant information
• Slow response times to patient inquiries
• Poor communication and education due to language barriers
• Lack of cultural sensibility among staff
• The hospital lacks established care paths and protocols for medical travelers
• Poor follow-up after a patient travels home
• Staff have not been trained to understand and manage a medical traveler’s expectations

One of the most important steps you can take to improve the patient experience is to train your staff. Doctors study for years in order to diagnose and treat patients. Nurses undergo intensive training and certification. Even a hospital’s cleaning staff follows certain protocols to perform their jobs well. The same principle should apply to every staff member responsible for caring for medical travelers. Don’t underestimate the impact your staff has on your medical travel program, both positive and negative.

Staff who are the first point of contact with your organization, which includes but isn’t limited to call center employees, international office staff and receptionists, are among the most important positions in your organization and should be supported as such. They are on the frontlines delivering first impressions and in a position to detect potential problems before they escalate. To ensure staff are well-equipped to manage medical travelers, they should be trained to:

• Anticipate international patient needs and expectations
• Understand the necessary services, both clinical and non-clinical expected by patients
• Use proper communication techniques
• Practice cultural and emotional sensibility
• Implement risk management protocols when accepting and attending patients
• Apply critical thinking skills to proactively mitigate risk and enhance the overall patient experience
• Properly manage the continuum of care process

Avoid the temptation of saying, “Juan from marketing can handle international patient requests…or we can move Susan from admissions, she speaks Spanish pretty well.” Give your staff the knowledge and tools to proactively impact the patient experience at each stage along the medical travel care continuum.

Join us August 21st at 10 am EDT to learn about the Global Healthcare Accreditation ® (GHA) Program, an independent accrediting body that seeks to improve the patient experience and excellence of care received by patients who travel for their medical care. GHA represents an innovative approach towards the importance of achieving medical travel accreditation while focusing specifically on operational excellence and the patient experience, a business strategy that will impact organizations across all services provided.

This Free Webinar will also feature Mercy Hospital Springfield sharing their perspective on the value of GHA accreditation. In 2016, Mercy Hospital Springfield – one of the largest Catholic health systems in the US, became the first organization accredited by GHA.
Click here to register for this Free Webinar.