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International Hospitals and International Clinics

So what criteria should you use to distinguish one hospital from the next? And how do you go about determining if a hospital is “world-class” and if it best serves your needs?

In some cases, where the doctor has been the focus of your search, you may simply trust – or take for granted, that he or she works at a quality facility. Although this assumption is likely to be true, you should always do your own due diligence to make sure that the hospital you choose is not only the best, but the best for your particular needs.

The first and most important question to ask is:

Does the hospital or clinic have experience in the procedure or treatment you will undergo?

Better yet, do they specialize in your procedure or have a center of excellence? There is no substitute for experience. This translates into lower mortality rates and complications, which means a greater chance for your procedure to be a success! It’s also no secret that top hospitals attract top physicians – another compelling reason to choose a great hospital.

Are they accredited, and if so by whom?

A quality accreditation process is a powerful factor in assuring you that your chosen hospital or clinic is visibly committed to high quality of care standards. Again, this is basically a risk reduction proposition; the higher the procedural standards and accountability mechanisms that are in place, the better odds of a successful procedure.

You also need to be aware that not all accreditation standards are created equal. Some countries have their own internal standards and methodologies that may or may not be as stringent as the criteria used by international organizations such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), Trent Accreditation Scheme (UK), and Accreditation Canada. Also, there is international accreditation of government accreditation systems called ISQua.

Is the procedure price or package affordable? What does it include?

Great facilities and technology are fine, but if you can’t pay for your surgery who cares. When requesting an estimate for a procedure, make sure to request in writing all that is included in the price. At a bare minimum, most price quotes will include doctor fees and hospital costs (“Hospital costs” is a pretty general term, so make sure you know what this covers). Also be sure you know about potential charges if there is a complication.

Do you feel comfortable with the hospital’s location?

Some people could care less about the country they are going to as long as their procedure is successful. Others prefer not to travel to certain countries they perceive as unsafe or where they are unfamiliar with the culture. How you approach this question will depend on your background, life experience, and the type of person you are.

A closely related question is: How far am I willing to travel?

This has implications that include not only cost considerations and comfort; but safety issues as well (will distance affect the success of my procedure?). It is no secret that flying long distances poses certain risks, particularly for surgical medical tourism patients. Depending on your procedure, it may not be advisable for you to travel too far.

Do they have a system or process in place to assist foreign patients (an international patient department for medical tourism)?

With the explosive growth of medical tourism over the last few years, a growing number of hospitals and clinics have begun to incorporate services and amenities destined to attract and cater to the needs of medical tourists. These may include handling medical tourism patient enquiries, coordinating doctor contact, scheduling surgeries, arranging concierge services and assigning a bilingual aid to personally assist the medical tourism patient while he or she is at the hospital. In the case of hospitals, these services are usually coordinated through an in-house department sometimes referred to as an international patient office.

With all else being equal, you’re much better off going with a facility that understands who you are and where you are coming from, and has the infrastructure and resources in place to take care of your logistical needs as well as your wellbeing.

Once you have settled on a hospital and decided to go ahead with your surgery, other questions may pop up such as:

Are international hospitals and clinics as modern as hospitals in my country?

In most cases the answer is yes. Some of these hospitals and clinics have beautiful facilities that in many cases will make North American doctors green with envy. As stated earlier in this medical tourism guide, overseas medical facilities are competing with other similar hospitals all over the world intent on attracting first-world medical tourism patients, such as American, Canadian and UK medical tourism patients. They know and understand that to be competitive, they need to match or exceed what medical tourism patients expect to see in first-world hospitals. This means continually investing in sophisticated technology and equipment, as well as acquiring and training the staff to use it.

Where can I find reliable information about international hospitals and medical tourism?

The best source of information for a particular hospital is its website. Here you should be able to find information about the types of procedures offered, physician information and international patient services, if available. You will also find contact information and possibly even an estimate request form. http://www.MedicalTourism.com has listings of hospitals and doctors that you can review for medical tourism options.

International hospital information may also be found on the websites of some medical tourism facilitators (see below). Though brief and sometimes outdated, these websites will at least give you an idea of the different hospitals that are out there, and some of the medical procedures and services offered.

As with most questions relating to medical tourism, the Medical Tourism Association website is a comprehensive source for trustworthy information about some of the top international hospitals.