6 insights on medical tourism physicians should know

The American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs studied the growing patient trend of medical tourism and provided six insights into how physicians should handle ethical issues if they arise, according to AMA Wire.

"Many medical tourists receive excellent care, but data suggest that issues of safety and quality can loom large. Substandard surgical care, poor infection control, inadequately screening of blood products, and falsified or outdated medications in lower income settings of care can pose greater risks than patients would face at home," the council wrote. "Patients who develop complications may need extensive follow-up care when they return home."

Here are six insights:

1. Look for signs a patient may be considering care abroad. Situations like this provide an opportunity to explore a patient's concerns or wishes about their care. Physicians can refer the patient to a specialist or other resources.

2. Familiarize yourself with medical tourism problems. Knowing potential risks and benefits will help inform decision-making for patients. Common reasons for medical tourism include transplantation, cardiac care, orthopedic surgery, fertility treatment and the "significant and expanding" sector of cosmetic procedures. The AMA report also indicates stem cell transplantation is offered at hundreds of clinics worldwide and can be harmful to patients.

"Other than therapies for blood disorders, there is no evidence that stem-cell-based interventions are efficacious," the council writes.

3. Help patients understand the risk and limited benefit of unapproved therapies. Instances of medical tourism are often prompted treatment unavailable in a patient's country.

Physicians should help patients make realistic care goals based on scientifically recognized interventions.

4. Ask patients seeking care abroad if they will need follow-up care. If a physician cannot offer healthcare, refer patients to other options of care.

5. Offer the best professional guidance for a patient becoming a medical tourist. This conversation can be the same as any other discussion about appropriate patient care. Physicians can encourage patients seeking unapproved therapy to enroll in a clinical trial with a similar result.

6. Respond compassionately if a patient has undergone treatment abroad without prior consultation or if they seek a follow-up. If a physician is unable or unwilling to provide care, he or she still has the responsibility to refer the patient to appropriate services.

More articles on physician integration issues:

Chicago physician, pharmacy resident killed in hospital shooting: 4 things to know
Top 3 challenges facing healthcare consumers
Physicians fight Florida health system's proposed admissions policy change

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2019. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.


Top 40 Articles from the Past 6 Months