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As we create our healthcare clusters, it is important to think about the reinvestment in the public sector and the need for investment in infrastructure to accommodate the increased patient flow and allow the local patients benefits in healthcare as well.

Can you imagine the future of medical tourism held in the hands of the World Health Organization?  Well yes, it may be in our cards to see Big Brother organizations like the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization looking at medical tourism as trade in healthcare services under GATT and the potential for sustainability.

In February, a group of academics met to discuss this new growing industry and evaluate the potential effects on public healthcare.  Although the workshop was designed as an information gathering session, the take away was clear: medical tourism can have very positive effects on the public healthcare systems in participating countries provided there is sufficient planning to accommodate develop in the public sector as well as the private and the prevention of two tiered systems with only “trickle down” benefits.

This is exactly the conversation that we had during the recent “FAM Tour” to El Salvador.  The Salvadoran Vice President would like to attract Salvadorans living in the US to return to El Salvador for healthcare.  She found equally attractive the effect that this growing demand for health services might have on the local educational programs.  

Mandatory English teaching in secondary schools would not only improve the postgraduate work force in terms of employment opportunities, but the bilingual work force brings in greater foreign investment and job opportunities for floundering economies.

One of the major initiatives in El Salvador is for healthcare providers to obtain English training programs for their medical staff.  This is the first of many efforts Little Sister Salvador is planning for 2009.  International Accreditation is also at the top of its list, not only for its hospitals, but also its clinics like cosmetic and dental clinics.  Nowhere in Latin America is such a national initiative taking place with such motivation.

The MTA’s organized FAM Tours provide member facilitators the opportunities to enhance their provider networks while at the same time providing valuable feedback to the provider countries on how to improve their service offerings that ultimately would be attractive to patients and enhance patient safety.

At a recent Health and Wellness Tourism Conference in Antalya Turkey, the buzz was in the air as over a hundred health and wellness providers gathered to learn more about this growing industry.  Turkey has a unique advantage over many destinations due in part to the large number of internationally accredited hospitals within the country, over 24 in total, providing Joint Commission International with a large percentage of its annual revenues.

To take advantage of this opportunity, it will be critical in the upcoming months for the various promotional groups to work together to create one voice for Turkish healthcare, a loud voice talking about high quality.  Another advantage for Turkey is the opportunity to develop networks for continuity of care in the United States.  

Under the support of TADAM (a Turkish American Medical Group), Turkish Airlines and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, great strides are being made to nurture the connectively required for such aftercare networks.

On April 16, 2009 a conference is being held in Chicago to educate the medical community about medical tourism and to attract insurance companies to the quality of care in Turkish hospitals.  Information about the congress can be found at

Also of interest to all of our members is the completion of the first half of the pilot project stage of the MTA’s Medical Tourism/Travel Facilitator Certification Program.  Six of our members have commenced the process and will look towards a successful evaluation by the MTA’s first of three expected external surveyors.  Members achieving certification will be listed on MTA’s website at

The certification program of medical tourism facilitators is not an evaluation of the quality of healthcare services.  It is strictly an evaluation of the “best practices” put in place, procedures and protocols for the medical tourism services offered to patients.

It provide patients with the questions they may ask their facilitators and the services they may be interested in receiving when travelling overseas for healthcare.  For more information about the program, please go to

Renée-Marie Stephano  is  Chief Operating Officer and  a Founder  of  the Medical Tourism Association,  Inc.,  an  international  non-profit organization that serves international healthcare providers  and medical  travel  facilitators  in  the global  healthcare  industry.   Renée-Marie is  an attorney  licensed  to  practice  law  in  the  states of Florida, Pennsylvania  and New  Jersey  and has  a  background  in  litigation  and  health  law. She  is  also Editor  of  the Medical  Tourism Magazine,  a  journal serving  the  global  healthcare  industry.  It can  be  found  online  at Renée-Marie may  be  reached  at

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