Sunday, October 21, 2007

Global Medicine - Globalization, Medical Tourism, American Doctors

You're aware of outsourcing of jobs, people, and products to India and China and other countries. But what about outsourcing American patients to countries for care costing as much as 90% less than in America?

An article in Healthleaders Magazine(“Predicting the Impact of Medical Tourism,” Oct. 12), says medical outsourcing may be the next big thing. The author says small businesses, health plans, and even state governments are promoting medical tourismm, i.e., patients going abroad for less expensive care.

David E. Williams, a consultant, predicts:

Prediction 1: Medical tourism will cross over to the insured population in 2008.

Prediction 2: Mini-med plans and small employers--not big health plans and blue chip companies--will be the early adopters.

Prediction 3: Opposition to medical tourism by U.S. physicians will be modest.

Prediction 4: State governments will begin to embrace medical tourism by 2010.
Prediction 5: The emergence of medical tourism won't have a major, direct impact on U.S. healthcare costs, but the secondary impact will be substantial

His rationale for prediction #3, viz, that American physicians won’t oppose patient outsourcing, is:

Medicine is already a global profession. Physicians from academic medical centers attend global conferences where American physicians from leading institutions treat their colleagues from other countries as peers. They have often trained together and they publish in the same journals. Leading physicians from overseas speak and read English.

At the community level, over 25 percent of physicians in the United States are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They are familiar with the level of professionalism and training in other countries. Many of these foreign-born physicians are in secondary cities and rural areas, which also means that U.S. patients are already accustomed to getting their care from foreign physicians.

Do you agree with Mr. Williams, author of Health Business Blog and MedTripInfo? How do you react to his predictions and comments? Do you feel businesses, health plans, and state governments encouraging patients to go overseas for care is a good thing? Is it potentially dangerous?


Dr. Val said...

I think it's inevitable, but I think it's a bad thing for the following reasons:

1. Lack of follow up. Most of the medical tourism is for surgical procedures. Surgical procedures, above most other types of medicine, require close follow up from the surgeon who did the procedure. I predict more complications (with paradoxical higher costs) from some off-shore surgeries.

2. It cherry picks the most lucrative procedures in the healthiest patient populations away from the surgeons who subsidize care for the poor with this income.

3. It may expose people to risks without legal recourse. Not that I'm a fan of lawsuits by any stretch - but if something goes wrong and your doctor is truly negligent, what protection do you have?

I'm sure there are other things I'm not thinking of right now - and surgeons might be happy to provide them. :)

Richard L. Reece, MD said...

Your points are all well taken and on the mark. But like you, I'm sure a finite number of patients will seek care abroad.

Healthbase Team said...

Completely agree with all the predictions made my Mr. Williams.

Prediction 1: We are a medical tourism facilitator (Healthbase) and we get consumers who are interested in going abroad for their surgery despite being covered by health insurance in the US. The reason - they don't want to go through the hassle of getting their insurer to pay what they say they will pay. So, medical tourism is already crossing over to the insured population.

Prediction 3: Some opposition is expected. But many a times US physicians would be happier serving other lucrative cases (like those who have insurance) and not waste their time with uninsured patients who may take years to pay off the treatment fees or may even default.

familyfun said...


muebles said...

The guy is definitely just, and there's no doubt.

James said...

Very Impressive! This article helps me to understand the whole concept of Medical Tourism.

Gilliam said...

Informative post! I Completely agree with all the predictions that you have made. Keep posting some more information related to Medical Trips.

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing valuable information. It will helpful for the one who is Starting a Medical Tourism Business