Medical Tourism Facilitator Checklist – Site Inspections

Checklists help you standardize your inspection process as a health tourism facilitator and care coordinator at the surgical facilities in your provider network.

When I inspect a healthcare facility that may be added to my medical tourism provider network, I evaluate the facility from many different angles. The basics include quality, safety, licensing, accreditation, technology, and patient experience. But for me this is second nature because I’ve been a surgical nurse and both a hospital and ambulatory surgery center administrator in my career. I see things with a “third eye” that travel agents, marketing representatives, lawyers, venture capitalists and private equity investors, insurance brokers, TPAs, and e-commerce website owners cannot see because they lack similar training and experience. 

Nonetheless, I am going to share a basic checklist with you so that you’ll be able to identify where you may need some training and education so you can be the best you can to try to keep your clients safe, delighted with your program, and willing to recommend your services to others.

Quality -

Wikipedia does about as good a job as any at defining “health care quality“. It is a level of value provided by any health care resource, as determined by some measurement. If you don’t know what to measure, and you have no training and experience on what to look for and how to assess the quality, that’s a problem. One way to overcome that problem is to obtain the training and experience. How could you do that? One way many people try to fill this gap is to register for courses and seminars where Masters of this knowledge will transfer that knowledge to you.

  • Is that some 2-3 day medical tourism certification course? Get real!
  • Is it a college course? If you find one, please share the details with me.
  • Is it one of my seminars? Nope. My courses teach operational knowledge and contract know how.

As with quality in other fields, it is an assessment of whether something is good enough and whether it is suitable for its purpose. So, who would be qualified to know if a facility’s quality is suitable for its purpose – not of just plain surgical services, but of rendering surgical services to medical tourism patients coming from far away?

  1. A nurse or former nurse with medical tourism experience and quality management experience.
  2. A physician.
  3. An experienced facility administrator
  4. An experienced operations manager of a healthcare facility.

If you don’t have the means or the time to learn this through formal training, one way to fill this void is to hire an adviser or coach, or subcontract with one of the above-listed experts to do it for you or do it with you so you can learn by on-the-job and in-the-field training.

Keep in mind that customer service, branding and smooth operations and responsiveness are all component parts of quality, so that’s why I didn’t give them their own heading in this article.

Safety -

The term “health care safety” or “patient safety” relates to how healthcare professionals and facilities protect patients from medical errors, injuries, accidents, and environment of care risks such as infections.

Chances are high that you’ve been a patient in a clinic a hospital or some other health delivery setting. You got out alive and well. You were lucky. As many as 440,000 people die each year from preventable mishaps in the healthcare environment. But it we suddenly include hotels, guest homes, vacation properties, and someone’s spare bedroom rented on the internet as a “healthcare environment, as in the case of many medical travelers, does the risk go up? Of course it does! 

In medical tourism, the environment of care is not only the hospital or clinic. It suddenly extends to the accommodation, the aircraft, the train, the car, the shuttle to the hotel, and more. While there are hidden dangers, your role and responsibility as a medical tourism facilitator is to think several steps ahead and have a plan and a checklist for keeping your clients safe.

Safety relates to “lack of harm”. Quality relates to efficiency, effectiveness and planning so that the right things are carried out in the right setting and point in the episode of care timeline. So, to map out the episode of care, start with a list of “touchpoints” within your clients’ episode of care timeline for each surgical procedure you will coordinate. If you don’t know them, you may need to obtain training or hire an adviser or coach who can do this for you. If you aren’t capitalized adequately to hire to fill the voids in your medical tourism knowledge, wait until you are or seriously consider that this industry may not be something you should try and just wing it. Truth be told, without this training or advice, you’ll just be an appointment setter and that doesn’t pay a whole lot to create and sustain a business.

License & Accreditation -

Licensing is different in every jurisdiction. It is usually a process that involves an application, and inspection that benchmarks against standards of operation, fiduciary responsibility, compliance with regulations, and business management of a healthcare facility. Most licensing and commissioning standards, criteria and regulations are published or accessible on the Internet, except in some developing countries.

  1. To begin, educate yourself. Locate and read the licensing criteria and regulations so that you know what is expected of a licensed facility.  If you don’t understand what you are reading, you can call the licensing authority and ask questions free of charge. At the same time, verify the licensing status and history of any facility you are considering. If you can obtain a copy of the license application, you’ll have lots of valuable information that will save you time and effort and expense in your vetting process and interviews.

Accreditation is an internal process of review coupled with an external validation through observation and measurement that allows a healthcare organization to demonstrate their ability to meet regulatory requirements and standards established by an accrediting body that has been widely recognized for its own integrity, reputation and quality. Choose a few, such as DNV, The Joint Commission, JCI, AAAHC, AAAASF, and some others with at least 20 years of history as an accreditor.

  1. Purchase the accreditation guidelines document set. That way, you’ll be more informed about that which was evaluated by the accrediting body and what the score they received really means.  Choose carefully! You can spend a small fortune on these document sets and they are updated frequently. But to avoid risk and embarrassment, don’t just tic the box that a facility is accredited by “some accreditor” and let that suffice. Not all accrediting bodies are equal. 

Technologies Present -

According to the WHO, healthcare technologies are the application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed and implemented to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives. 

So many facilities boast “state of the art” and “world class” healthcare technologies. What does that mean in terms of medical tourism, patient safety, quality, licensing and accreditation?

When you talk with clients are you simply going to parrot those phrases?  Also, “having” the technologies and “using them” daily are often two very different things. There are many storage closets and unoccupied hospital rooms stuffed to the ceiling with state of the art and world class technologies that nobody uses because no one really knows how.  To advertise that they “have them” doesn’t really mean much in terms of patient care, quality, and safety. In fact, in the hands of an untrained or inadequately trained specialist the risk of patient harm is elevated. Second, to have and not use is called “waste” which adds costs which results in higher pricing with little to no associated value proposition. 

  1. Think about the procedures you’ll coordinate. Determine which technologies are important for your clients. If you don’t know this, you’ll benefit from advisory assistance or subcontracted help to fill this knowledge void.
Think along the lines of health technologies related to the procedures you’ll offer to clients. Consider which ones equip health-care providers with tools that are indispensable for effective and efficient prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation and communication for your clients. You don’t need all of them. Limit your scope at first and focus on those related to the surgeries and consultations in which your business will specialize.
Maria K Todd, MHA PhD is a trusted adviser to the healthcare industry in the USA and abroad.

Would you benefit from a few hours of coaching or field training in these areas?

If you are just starting out in health tourism, or if you are considering investing in a medical tourism business and you need assistance with due diligence or provider network development and criteria, I can help. I offer my expertise and advise on an hourly or daily basis to facilitators, investors, government authorities, health facilities, TPAs, insurers, and employers.  Hire the unbiased expertise you need. Upon your request, I provide assistance on a retained basis and will travel to most locations at your expense. I am competent to conduct the site visits and provide a written report of my findings as well as guidance on strategies, deficiencies and corrective actions that should be developed and implemented.

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