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Medical tourism certification trend

With medical tourism becoming more mainstream each year there has been a rise in people and organizations calling for some type of certification for medical tourism destinations. On the surface this might seem like a good idea, but in practice does it actually add any value for medical tourists?

The idea is that people considering treatment overseas are naturally nervous about the quality of the health care they are going to receive. They want some assurances and they don’t really want to do a lot of investigation of their own about things they don’t know a lot about. So here come people and organizations ready to offer them those assurances, at a price to be extracted from the health care providers. As much as anything else this looks like another opportunity for shakedown operations to press overseas hospitals to pay up or be conspicuously omitted from their list of “certified” providers. Some of these new organizations want to certify everything and everybody involved, medical tourism facilitators, brokers, agents, hospitals, individual doctors, even hotels and airline companies. Many of these steps lend themselves to review sites, but certification? This seems rather overreaching but sure sounds like a good gig if you can extract money for it. Seeing that there may be a lucrative opportunity in this niche, there are now at least five organizations offering these types of certifications. That sort of fracturing is likely to make things rather confusing for patients. Medical destinations are unlikely to be interested in receiving certification from so many different organizations so patients will be left to decide which one(s) are meaningful. It will likely take quite some time for a shake out and consolidation to one or two certifiers that are trusted. And in the end why not just stick with JCI certification and do your own research for hotels and airlines.

Looking at it, it reminds one of the business model of the Better Business Bureau, an organization that extracts a fee from businesses to be listed and warns consumers when a business is not listed. But the BBB provides little to no real value for either the business or the consumer. If you’ve ever attempted to get some resolution through them you know first hand. And as a small business owner who has been contacted by the BBB and received the implied threat of being flagged as not BBB rated you know what a shakedown operation they are.

As the medical tourism certification operations battle for attention it is beginning to look very similar. Having their stamp of approval on a foreign hospital will give patients some comfort but whether or not that actually means anything in regards to outcomes will be a long unanswered question. We can also watch how those certification companies approach the foreign hospitals and clinics. If we see extortive type behaviors then I think that will make clear we can discount their stamp of approval or lack thereof.

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