Ensuring Patient Safety


Patient safety was an important key topic at this years World Medical Tourism and Global Health Congress and continues to draw significant focus within the medical tourism community. For the growing niche industry patient safety is critical.

As Dr. Casey Chosewood Senior Medical Officer in the Office of Strategy and Innovation for the Center for Disease Control and a speaker at the congress put it: If medical tourism is a golden goose what will cook the goose faster significantly will be recurring lapses in safety.

During his presentation Dr. Chosewood was quick to clarify that it wasn just international hospitals that needed to be monitored for safety. In fact many U.S. hospitals pale in comparison to others around the globe.

In our current healthcare system we are falling short of our patients expectations he said. We still have a long way to go as a nation in keeping hospitals safer. Because of that there is much that can be learned from the international community on quality safety and value.

There are many aspects of patient safety that are under the control of healthcare providers and facilitators. Healthcare associated infections are one of the top leading infections in this country Dr. Chosewood said. He then stressed the importance of providers holding a banner high to raise standards and lower risks.

Ana Andrade Vice President for Health Nets Latino Programs has much experience with medical tourism across the U.S.-Mexican border as well as establishing patient safety throughout the process. From our experience in working with providing care in Mexico accreditation and licensing is a big focus she said.

It basically demonstrates the organizations have put mechanisms in place to ensure patient safety. We audit them and review credentials and licensees we do with the network we have here in California. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services at the UCLA School of Public Health Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante also had a unique perspective on patient safety.

After providing details on a study he did which showed that 62 percent of the Mexican immigrant population in California was willing to pay for a cross-border insurance plan Dr. Bustamante discussed three possible approaches to ensuring safety for this travel-ready market.

There are three different types of approaches that can be considered in the case of patient safety he said. One is the existing legislation. The second is to follow a similar approach in the case of NAFTA to agree on a common legal framework to guarantee patient safety across borders.

The third would be to recognize the standards of third country regulations of patient safety.While there is much to be done on the end of the facilitator and provider Dr. Chosewood emphasized that patients need to be reminded of their own safety responsibilities. Travel in and of itself has risks that should be addressed before you even start to address the procedure he said.

Even members of the public health community come back with travel related risks and conditions said Dr. Chosewood. To prevent accidents and ensure safety patients should understand seasonal risks and be aware of cultural political and societal unrest issues.

Dr. Chosewood also recommended that patients optimize personal health prior to travel and to be open and honest with their providers about their needs. Obtaining a pre-travel consultation is also a good idea. For the most part patients can take responsibility for their own safety through education.

Be proactive. Know what to pack gather information about the destination before traveling and seek pre-travel advice Dr. Chosewood advised.The Yellow Book published every two years by the CDC to provide international travelers with pertinent safety information is a great resource to medical tourists and now includes a chapter on medical tourism Dr. Chosewood added.

By combining provider and patient efforts ensuring patient safety becomes less of an obstacle. There is however still progress to be made.We need to measure what matters more. I would encourage providers to be broad in sharing data and findings and own up to mistakes Dr. Chosewood said. Emphasis on infection control intensive care and management of post-op care is paramount.

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