In the healthcare industry, broker and third party administrators, intermediaries between buyers and sellers, — employers and insurance companies – seek to provide the best policy to self-funded employers in terms of employees healthcare insurance plans.
Armando Polanco is the Principal Managing Partner for Texas Benefit, an independent insurance and financial service brokerage firm located in San Antonio, Texas. Polanco created Texas Benefit in 1993 and is chiefly responsible for the business development and marketing aspects. A few years ago Polanco, in observing the healthcare landscape changing at a rattling pace, decided to get involved in the medical tourism industry.
“During the spring of 2007 health insurance rates continued to climb at a quicker pace than inflation and there was no end in sight. The country seemed poised for a dramatic change in political parties,” Polanco said. “That’s when I began to study what countries like France, Germany, Great Britain and Canada were doing in order to prepare for their futures.”
After becoming a Medical Tourism Association member, Polanco went on familiarization trips to enhance his education on medical tourism as a whole and build Texas Benefit a network.
“Patient migration was evident but only self-insured plans would allow global claims to be paid so a course was set to learn about distant hospitals. Since making that decision to engage in medical tourism, I have been extremely fortunate to have participated in Costa Rica, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Korea, Colombia and Mexico FAM tours with approximately 35 hospitals in total,” he said.
Today, well established in the medical tourism industry, Texas Benefit offers health insurance plans including medical travel options. In addition Polanco created a four page FAM Tour Review questionnaire guide aimed at compiling information on different hospitals visited, that may be eligible as a medical tourism service provider. The guide is largely meant as an evaluation tool for both treating facilities and touring members to help buyers and sellers interpret the offer.
“The FAM Tour Review may be completely adopted, amended or not even used,” Polanco said. He added that the advantage of the FAM Tour Review is that it’s a compilation of information accessible and understandable to everyone. Because each hospital has its own assets and approach medical tourism differently, Polanco tried to establish basic evaluation criteria.
“All hospitals from varying countries will be best suited for patient populations with specific attributes and characteristics of patients,” Polanco said. “Often times ethnicity, proximity of region, tourism appeal and business influence will play a role in the decision making process along with other normal measures such as cost savings, success rates and service capacity.”
According to him, the evaluation is extremely important in order to keep some level of uniformity and consistency commensurate with standards that are global and world class.
The FAM Tour Review is divided into four categories: Transnational Hospital and Clinics Review, Clinical Confidence Review and International Department Service, and Tourism Value Review. The two first sections being addressed focus on the visiting hospitals and the last section is primarily from the tour guide perspective.
Transnational Hospital Review section provides information about the type of accreditation the hospital owns, the academic medical centers, the expectations the international patients can have in terms of protocol and languages speaking, and chances of continuity of care.
The Clinical Confidence Review section seeks outstanding values such as telemedicine or for numbers: Mortality rate, complication rate, surgical site infection rate and hospital acquired infection rate of:
- Heart by-pass
- Hip replacement
- Hip resurfacing
- Knee replacement
The section dealing with the international department services focuses on the ancillary services incorporate and provided for by the hospitals. That can include: Airport pick-up, wireless in the hospital or even facilities for the companion traveller. This section also provides information relevant to the decision makers such as primary care physicians and emergency contacts in the home country.
The Tourism Value Review category deals with the chances an American can adapt to the country easily inclusive of food services and cuisine that they are normally accustomed to, types and range of accommodations available, modes of transportation or safety issues and areas of caution for travellers as a whole.
“The FAM Tour Review acts as a quick guide to recommend certain locations with specifications sought by the patient,” Polanco said. “I only wish I had developed this guide from my first hospital visit during the first FAM tour I was involved in. However, I am reaching out to all of the hospitals I had previously visited for updates.”