Destination Medical Care: Right New Take on an Age-old Practice

Many people look at a destination medical care as a new idea.  In fact, nothing could be farther from true.  From antiquity, people around the world have traveled to distant locations to reach the best medical care possible.  The earliest references date from about 2650 BC, when people traveled to see the Egyptian physician Imhotep who was renowned for medicines for wound care and for relief of intestinal, muscular and skin disorders.  Definitive records show significant medical travel by the Greeks as early as the 6th Century BC.   The asclepieion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in hope of being cured.  The Pool of Bethesda, recorded in the Gospel of John, surrounded an asclepieion where the ill and infirmed traveled for healing.  Roman records from around 75BC describe the healing centers in Bath, England.

Destination medical care in the United States became important in the mid-1800′s as Americans suffering from tuberculosis traveled to places like Colorado Springs; Battle Creek, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and Saranac Lake, New York, among others.  In the second half of the 19th century, patients began traveling cross-country to leading specialty hospitals including the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  More recently, international hospitals have become the destinations of choice with high quality hospitals emerging in China, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and other nations.

Destination medical care decisions are common.  A family may prefer a particular hospital or doctor because the provider is in their health insurance company network, or a specialist may be chosen based on expertise, surgical outcomes and how quickly an appointment can be scheduled. In many of these cases, geography is not the primary consideration.

In 2009, the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons each adopted positions supporting destination medical care.  The American Society of Anesthesiologists joined them in 2010.   The American College of Surgeons recommends patients “seek care of the highest quality” and encourages its members to “assist all patients in reaching informed decisions concerning medical care, whether at home or abroad.”

Whether it’s an international center of excellence or one nearer home, destination medical care provides access to treatment not available at home and the first real opportunity in decades to bend the cost curve on health insurance down without sacrificing medical quality.

Isn’t it time to learn how you can spend less and recover your health?  Call us now for more information.

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American Medical Association Guidelines on Medical Tourism & Destination Medical Care

American Medical Association Guidelines on Medical Tourism & Destination Medical Care

The American Medical Association advocates that employers, insurance companies, and other entities that arrange medical care outside the U.S. adhere to the principles below.  As a leader in destination medical care, here’s our take on the American Medical Association’s guidelines.

Medical care outside of the U.S. must be voluntary. 

Soter position:  We agree.  Soter Healthcare will not take part in any insurer or employer group plan that mandates travel for medical care.

Financial incentives to travel outside the U.S. for medical care should not inappropriately limit  the diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives that are offered to patients or restrict treatment or referral options.

Soter position:  We agree.  Destination medical care is simply one more option for people.  We believe in adding opportunities, not limiting them.

Patients should only be referred for medical care to institutions accredited by recognized international accrediting bodies (e.g., the Joint Commission International or the International Society for Quality in Health Care).

Soter position:  We believe accreditation is critical in destination medical care.  However, we believe the AMA hits only the outside ring of the target.  Click to read our accreditation position.

Prior to travel, local follow-up care should be coordinated and financing should be arranged to ensure continuity of care when patients return from medical care outside the US.

Soter position:  Continuity of care is essential to the success of the patient’s medical treatment.  With the patient’s approval, we will offer opportunities for his/her home physician to consult with the destination physician before, during and after the individual’s medical travel experience.  We deliver medical records following a patient’s destination medical care to his or her physician(s) in English.  We also coordinate benefits, where possible, to support a patient’s finances.

Coverage for travel outside the US for medical care must include the costs of necessary follow-up care upon return to the US.

Soter position: Follow-up care on a patient’s return is vital.  Soter Healthcare makes certain that the patient’s caregivers are aware of his/her needs on return.  Because the majority of our work is with employer groups and insurers, financial support for care after the patient returns is rarely an issue.  We carefully evaluate the potential financial needs of self-pay patients in situations where after-care may be expensive.

Patients should be informed of their rights and legal recourse before agreeing to travel outside the U.S. for medical care.

Soter position: We agree.  Nothing less should ever be acceptable.

Access to physician licensing and outcome data, as well as facility accreditation and outcomes data, should be arranged for patients seeking medical care outside the U.S.

Soter position:  The quality of medical outcomes is our first criterion when considering a destination medical provider.  In order to be considered for Soter Cares™, all physicians must be licensed in the location in which they practice and each hospital must be credentialed at the nation’s highest level.  This information is available to each confirmed patient.

The transfer of patient medical records to and from facilities outside the U.S. should be consistent with HIPAA guidelines.

Soter position:  Patient privacy and confidentiality are critical.  Soter Healthcare takes every step possible to make sure transfer of records and communications are consistent with HIPAA guidelines.

Patients choosing to travel outside the U.S. for medical care should be provided with information about the potential risks of combining surgical procedures with long flights and vacation activities.

Soter position:  We agree.  Soter Healthcare does not recommend or arrange vacation travel as a part of a destination medical care arrangement.  We work with destination physicians to make sure each patient is physically ready to travel safely, both to and from their medical destination.

Destination medical care is a positive addition for patients, their families, and their physicians.  It allows them the greatest possible options to get the care they need at prices they can afford.

What’s your destination medical care interest?

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We are still the same great company, we just made a few changes!

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OnOctober 6, 2011, posted in: Uncategorized by