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Interview with CEO Karen Timmons with Global Healthcare Accreditation


The Medical Tourism Association has had a long-standing strategic partnership with Global Healthcare Accreditation, the organization responsible for changing the way hospitals set standards for medical travel around the globe. This week, we’ve interviewed our friend and colleague, Karen Timmons, CEO of Global Healthcare Accreditation.

Please briefly describe your company and the purpose of accreditation as well as your role there.

The Global Healthcare Accreditation (GHA) program is an independent accrediting body that seeks to improve the patient experience and excellence of care received by patients who travel for their medical care and treatment, whether within their own country or internationally. The program focuses on all aspects of the medical travel care continuum, such as the selection of the medical destination, pre-care communication with the chosen provider and organization, transfer of medical records and assessment, admission and post discharge. The objective is to maximize the care management as well as patient experience and to ensure the organization’s business practices respond to the unique needs of the medical travel patient. For example, is there transparency in respect to pricing? How are complications managed? More importantly, the program also works to improve the business performance of the medical travel program by sharing best practices and professional norms.

Accreditation is an external validation of an organizations’ commitment to quality. Through an external independent party’s onsite review, accreditation builds trust and enhances the reputation of organizations, while strengthening the confidence of patients in the quality of care. Additionally, accreditation can provide access or grant eligibility for participation in networks or insurance schemes.

How long have you been involved in the industry? How did your previous roles lead you to your current position and where do you see your next big move with your company to serve as an agent of change?

I have been fortunate to have had a long career in accreditation and quality improvement. My previous roles as Chief Operating Officer of The Joint Commission and President and CEO of Joint Commission International provided a strong foundation in understanding the need for input and feedback of multiple stakeholders in the development of standards. Additionally, while at JCI, it was important to understand the need to adapt standards to local cultures. Furthermore, I believe it is important to focus not just on the writing of a standard, but how it can be implemented within many healthcare systems as well as how it can be measured consistently. I believe the medical travel patient is currently underserved and I hope to assist in bringing professional norms and best practices to this vulnerable patient population. Medical travel facilitates care for patients that are seeking more affordable, more accessible, and potentially higher quality care than that which might have been available in the patient’s home country. It is a growing field and here to stay and medical travel patients deserve assurance that they are receiving the best care and experience.

How do you envision the future of medical travel, medical tourism and international patients 5 years from now? Ten years from now?

As previously stated, I believe strongly that medical travel will continue to have strong growth in the coming five years. In some ways, healthcare has lagged other industries in globalization, but we now see multinational healthcare systems and many national systems extending their brands overseas. Additionally, patients have experienced improved customer service during the past ten years with the advent of smart technology. They have high expectations for excellent patient experience and healthcare – especially in medical travel, and the industry will need to meet these changing expectations. I would envision more information being provided to patients on outcomes and patient experience.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that you would pass along to others just entering the industry?

As a past Chair of the WHO Patient Safety Collaborating Center, it became very clear that the issuance of solutions was only one piece of a very challenging puzzle. It is very important to focus on the education and training of ways for organizations to implement standards and also to assure the collaboration of peers and providers in sharing best practices and professional norms.

What would you tell a family member who was looking to travel for a medical procedure?

First, to do their homework. Seek organizations that are accredited by a national or international accrediting body because those organizations have demonstrated a commitment to quality, patient safety, and best practices. Seek organizations also having accreditation for medical travel, such as GHA, because those organizations are committed to a focus on the medical travel care continuum. GHA focuses on the main care processes that impact medical travel patients. Rather than trying to fit medical travel patients into local care paths, GHA provides a guidepost through its standards along a medical travel care continuum and will work to assure the patient experience is maximized.

To see Karen Timmons speak in person and to learn more about what she is doing with Global Healthcare Accreditation, click here.

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