The American Medical Association (AMA) recently issued guidelines on medical tourism — the practice of going to another country for medical treatment. The guidelines are mainly directed at employers, insurance companies, doctors, and other parties involved in medical tourism. But they are meant to ensure that when Americans decide to go outside the country for care, it is their decision to do so, they understand all that is involved, they get safe and effective treatment abroad, and they get the appropriate follow-up care when they’re back home. The guidelines sum up the issues to think about if you are considering looking for medical care abroad. They are as follows:
- Medical care outside of the United States must be voluntary.
- Financial incentives to travel outside the United States for medical care should not inappropriately limit the diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives that are offered to patients, or restrict treatment or referral options.
- Patients should only be referred for medical care to institutions that have been accredited by recognized international accrediting bodies (for example, the Joint Commission International or the International Society for Quality in Health Care).
- Prior to travel, local follow-up care should be coordinated and financing should be arranged to ensure continuity of care when patients return from medical care outside the United States.
- Coverage for travel outside the United States for medical care must include the costs of necessary follow-up care upon return to the United States.
- Patients should be informed of their rights and legal recourse prior to agreeing to travel outside the United States for medical care.
- Access to physician licensing and outcome data, as well as facility accreditation and outcome data, should be arranged for patients seeking medical care outside the United States.
- The transfer of patient medical records to and from facilities outside the United States should be consistent with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines.
- Patients choosing to travel outside the United States for medical care should be provided with information about the potential risks of combining surgical procedures with long flights and vacation activities.