Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Medical tourism

John Rosenthal has written an interesting piece for the Milken Institute Review on the phenomenon of "medical tourism, that is, Americans going abroad to have medical procedures performed. The article has lots of interesting details and anecdotes, but here is some of the big picture.

How many people go abroad for medical procedures? "In 2009, Deloitte revised its estimates down to 648,000 travelers annually, but forecast 35 percent increases in each of the threesucceeding years. It predicts that more than1.6 million Americans will travel abroad for health care in 2012."

What is the assurance of quality? "Accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI) is recognized worldwide as the gold standard for hospitals. JCI screens facilities for the condition of their physical plants, their management of medications, the quality of their surgical care, their commitment to continuous improvement, and their responsiveness to feedback from patients. In the United States, the organization accredits more than 17,000 facilities, from hospitals to laboratories to long-term-care centers. JCI began accrediting hospitals outside the country in 1999. Today, the organization vouches for the quality of care at some 400 institutions in 45 countries from Austria to Yemen."

What are some of the potential cost savings?

Incidentally, the Milken Institute Review, with Peter Passell  as editor-in-chief, is a consistently excellent source for lively and well-written essays on economic policy. The contents are available free on-line, although you do need to fill out a registration form.