Huge numbers of US citizens seek medical care internationally, they bring with them a set of assumptions that they are legally safe. This is due to the highly regulated nature of medicine, physicians, and solutions in the America. Other countries, however, may not have the same laws or regulatory board in place to ensure safety .
If you are thinking of joining the ranks of American medical tourists, do you research in the following areas.
Physician Training and Certification
Health insurance plans in the US require that doctors are properly educated and pass rigorous testing. They have to renew their license on a a regular basis and have to meet requirements on continuing education to ensure they stay up-to-date on new procedures, medicines, and diagnostic options.
Educate yourself on the certification requirements in any country where you are traveling and look into the training and background of the specific physicians, surgeons, and other medical professionals who will be involved in your treatment. Many top doctors in other countries actually come to the US for medical school and there are some medical schools offering programs abroad.
As with physician certification, standards for medical facilities vary greatly from country to country. Look for clinics and hospitals that meet their country’s certifications — and know what that means. Also look for facilities that are rated or accredited by international health organizations. For example, the Joint Commission International (JCI) has been accrediting hospitals worldwide for two decades. They also provide certification within certain treatment specialties.
Within the US the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly regulates medical devices from pacemakers to artificial joints to diagnostic and surgical equipment. They also oversee experimental treatments to minimize risks to patients.
If you’re heading overseas, ask questions about the exact procedures and treatment you will receive. Also ask about any medical equipment that will be used, especially if it will be implanted in your body. Many devices found overseas are no different than those used in the US, you just need to check.
Pharmaceutical Approval Process
Drugs, from pain killers to chemotherapy drugs are also strictly regulated in the US. With a little careful research you can find out what laws and regulations govern medicine in a foreign country. This is another area where finding accredited facilities and certified, well-trained doctors will increase the likelihood of receiving quality, safe care.
One area that many medical travelers overlook is patient confidentiality. In America, every visit to a new doctor means signing a notice of privacy rights. These ensure that your medical history, diagnosis, and treatment will not be shared with other agencies or individuals without your permission. The doctor-patient confidentiality that you take for granted may not exist once you enter a new country. Research local laws and ask directed questions of medical professionals to discover how much, if any, of your privacy will be protected.
The legal protections extended to medical care is different in every country. With a little bit of due diligence, you can find out how much protection is available before you become a medical tourist.