International Hospital Accreditation for Medical Tourism — Who pays?

While the hospital will usually be expected to cover the cost of the application and the survey itself, often, we are engaged by regional government authorities if the hospital in question happens to be a public-private partnership, or a public tertiary teaching hospital.  What they usually do is create a grant to underwrite our travel, consulting time and accommodation hosting. If the primary airline for the region is a government-owned (e.g., Aeroflot, Croatia Airlines, China Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, LOT Polish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, South African Airways, and about 125 others), this is even more possible, because they have special rates they can arrange from agency to agency. Often we are provided business class airfare to travel to these countries at low or no cost to the hospital, especially if the government has decided to support the initiative. Actually, a number of international agencies, private clinics, investors, ministries, and public health experts will support the campaign if the timing and situation is right. But if the timing is off and all the preliminary preparation is not yet finished, expect to meet resistance.

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Approaching government agencies for support

One way to convince the government to support you with a grant for assistance is if a health cluster is if several providers are ready at the same time. We often negotiate a fee reduction if we only have to travel once and serve many, than to spend so much time flying between engagements.  The same thing may happen with the accrediting body surveyors themselves. Always ask! No one will be offended.

One thing to keep in mind, JCI and a few other accrediting bodies don’t permit surveyors to perform surveys in their own country. So always expect to budget for business class travel and hotel accommodation for surveyors and consultants. Teams are usually 3-5 individuals dependent on the size of the facility or organization.

What’s the incentive for the government to help a hospital achieve accreditation?

Better, safer, higher-quality assured care for all.

The incentive for healthcare facilities and clinicians to embrace accreditation is to help them to identify areas that require improvement and improve quality and patient safety. Most accrediting bodies provide benchmarks or standards in areas of clinical quality and management efficiency, safety, the Life Safety Code, cultural sensitivity, credentialing and privileging, and patients rights.

Additional Benefits of Accreditation Preparation

Good consultants and accrediting bodies also provide continuing education and keep clients informed of latest developments in patient care and operational efficiency. While there’s been lots of rumor about insurance companies that allegedly require facilities to be accredited before they will pay for elective services, a review of more than 2000 managed care and other contracts proves that this is conjecture, and not stated in most contracts, per se.  But if anything, it might bring a competitive edge to a hospital that may attract some business through foreign insurers. Any revenues that the government doesn’t have to pay out to support the hospital are usually a welcome fiscal relief. I’ve never encountered a Minister of Finance or Health that didn’t want the hospital to find a way to become more financially sustainable on its own.

Governments in emerging countries often encourage quality and safety accreditation by all healthcare providers. Accreditation offers a powerful policy tool which makes the healthcare providers accountable for service delivery, value, and their role in developing brand equity. An accredited healthcare facility implies customers (both foreign and local) should expect a certain level of quality care which evokes confidence on the part of customer. This alone is reason enough to consider accreditation for healthcare facilities in emerging economies as part of a 5-year national health tourism strategy.

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