International Medical Accreditation Unwound

We often see the comment “We only use JCI accredited hospitals” on the websites of and marketing brochures of medical tourism facilitators. I always enjoy reading that statement, knowing that the company either doesn’t understand accreditation or doesn’t really believe the comment.

Accreditation, put simply, is a means by which the medical community evaluates administration, operations, quality and patient safety.  In some cases, local or national regulatory authorities conduct accreditation inspections .  In other cases, an independent third-party agency whose report the regulatory agent accepts conducts the review.  For example, in America, state health departments regulate hospitals, and the health department can either conduct its own inspections or accept those of an agency like the Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), or the America Osteopathic Association, among others.  In other countries, the national health ministry generally manages the accreditation process.

In destination medical care (or medical tourism), accrediting organizations expanded internationally.  International accrediting organizations involved in destination medical care fall into in three groups: (a) national/domestic agencies, (b) international accreditors, and (c) medical tourism firms that purport to offer “credentialing.”

The best known of the international entities is the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQaccreditationua). Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, ISQua does not directly accredit hospitals; rather, ISQua accredits the accreditors. It has 70 members internationally and works through them to improve the quality and safety of the patient medical experience.

JCI is the accrediting agency most familiar to US citizens. It has accredited hospitals in 28 countries and can serve as a good basis for considering medical travel to destinations where medical concerns may exist. JCI has been credentialing international facilities since 1999 and became a member of ISQua in 2008.

QHA Trent Accreditation, based in the United Kingdom, is one of a limited few recognized as a leading standard. QHA Trent accredits hospitals globally and is stong in the UK, the Middle East and parts of Asia.  QHA Trent is an ISQua member.

Accreditation Canada International is a relatively new entrant to direct international accreditation; however, its accrediting process is widely recognized as a model.  Since 1995, ISQua has used Accreditation Canada’s framework as the basis for its reviews.  Accreditation Canada International is strong in parts of Asia, South America, Central American and the Mediterranean Sea areas.

Where a national medical system & accreditation systems are strong, such as in countries like Australia, Canada, China, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, international accreditation is rarely considered.  By example,  at last look, here are no JCI accredited hospitals in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, or the United Kingdom, nor are there any Trent accredited hospitals in the United States, Canada or Australia.

None of that means accreditation is not important.  It is.  It is a beginning stage of reviewing hospital quality for international patients.  However, accreditation is not the end point or the distinction between the difference maker that many people try to make it.

For more information about why accreditation is not the only standard that matters, contact us at Soter Healthcare.


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