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5 Elements to Choosing an International Hospital


We live in a generation of information overload.  With so many choices available to us, it is sometimes difficult to discern truth from fiction and make sense of the mountain of information that is coming our way.  This is especially true when it comes to choosing and trusting the right hospital for our particular needs.

You and I have the opportunity and the capability to interact with thousands of people and organizations via the internet.  With the development of the worldwide web, experts and non experts alike are filling up web pages of blogs and vlogs, having found an interactive space to share their lives and experiences with the rest of the world.

As far as hospitals go, the internet also allows us the advantage of “visiting and experiencing” a hospital before physically traveling there. Additionally, sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Hi5 or LinkedIn, help us to find information that will assist us in making a sound decision about which hospital to choose.

The downside is: these sites also expose us to a variety of opinions and criteria that are hard to verify and could skew reality. In other words, how do we sift through this mountain of information and ultimately make the correct decision about the best hospital for our needs? Below are some tips to make sense of all that information:


The Joint Commission is a non governmental agency that certifies US hospitals.  The   International branch of the Joint Commission certifies hospitals outside the US health system that have comparable standards to a US hospital. A list of accredited institutions can be found at


Many hospitals outside the United States have been providing services to the local population for a long time.  Local reputation is a good indicator of good quality.  Look for institutions that have been in the market for over 50 years.  This would give you confidence that things would run smoothly since, they have experience.  Some hospitals care only for locals, some others care for tourism alone.   Seek hospitals that provide a healthy combination of locals and tourists.


Air travel increases the risk of certain complications like deep venous thrombosis (DVT).  DVT is the formation of blood clots in your legs.  These clots can migrate up to your   lungs and create a Pulmonary Embolism, The risk of DVT increases by 2.93 times when flights are over 8 hours and the risk of Pulmonary Embolism is 1.07 times greater in flights over 8 hours. Health tourists that undergo surgery, are pregnant, smoke, take birth control or suffer from cancer are at higher risk of suffering this condition that the rest of the population.

There are many ways to reduce the risk.   There are other complications from long haul air traveling, like jet lag, changes in air pressure, humidity, Oxygen concentrations.  A healthy conversation with your  local doctor and your physician at the destination of your care can help diminish your specific risk.  The World Health Organization has published   a segment on International Health and travel that includes a segment on the health considerations of air traveling.This segment is available at their website,


Communication has been the week point of humanity ever since it came to existence.   The risk of communication failure increases if two people do not speak the same language.  Make sure you ask what percentage of staff and doctors that speak English or your language at the Hospital.  Avoid surprises.


We have been mentally trained to trust our doctors.  No matter who we are the white coat has a halo effect that blinds our consumer oriented mentality.   Comparing hospitals and doctors is a healthy practice since past performance is the best predictor of future outcomes.  

Google your procedure and educate yourself about the complications and risk of the surgery or treatment   Ask  specific questions about these risks and complications including hospital based risk like infection control.    If these are being measured and they are willing to compare, it is a good sign of quality management at that institution.

Overall, there are neither perfect hospitals nor perfect doctors, but being able to find one that fits our expectations of healthcare is a task that we can only do for ourselves.

Lic. Bernal Aragon Barquero is the Director General of Hospital Clinica Biblica, Costa Rica.

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