The number of people in the U.S. who plan to travel abroad for medical care, where the costs for various medical and surgical procedures often are comparatively lower, is projected to increase by eight times by 2010, according to a recent study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
For the study, researchers spent about 1,900 hours analyzing the mechanics of medical tourism. The researchers estimated that the number of people who travel internationally for medical procedures will increase from 750,000 to six million over the next two years. The study also found that U.S. patients contribute an estimated $2.1 billion in business to the medical tourism industry.
The Joint Commission International, which accredits health systems and hospitals abroad, has certified more than 250 hospitals in 30 countries, according to David Jaimovich, JCI's chief medical officer. He said that he expects to see twice the number of JCI-approved hospitals by 2012.
The study highlighted some of the common concerns with seeking health care abroad, such as post-operation care and who would bear the responsibility if a problem arises, according to the Post-Gazette. In such cases, the laws and regulations of the country where the procedure took place often would be enforced, the Post-Gazette reports.
Paul Keckley, executive director of the center, said, "What a lot of folks would say is that the quality of care is highly variable." However, Keckley said that it did not mean that the medical facilities abroad could not conduct simple and uncomplicated procedures. He said he still was concerned about the benefits of traveling overseas and returning on a long flight back to the U.S. just a few days after a procedure, with the risk of developing an infection, deep vein thrombosis or other problems.
Jaimovich said the hospitals have met standards that "are very comparable to the U.S. domestic standards," adding, "There are many hospitals around the world that would put some of our (U.S.) hospitals to shame." Jaimovich added, "The borders of health care have blurred," adding, "It is a very different world today than it was five years ago" (Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.