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American Medical Association provides guidance – June 2008:

American Medical Association provides guidance on Medical Tourism – June 2008:

The American Medical Association(AMA) has drawn up guidelines  for patients, employers, insurers, and medical travel coordinators.

The guidelines call for better public awareness about the need to coordinate care before and after operations. They also advocate that financial incentives to obtain care outside the US do not inappropriately limit the alternatives available to patients or restrict referral options and that patients are referred only to internationally accredited medical institutions.

The association plans to introduce model legislation based on these principles for evaluation by state law makers.

The association said its nine principles regarding medical travel and tourism “are the first-of-its-kind, and outline steps for care abroad for consideration by patients, employers, insurers and third-parties responsible for coordinating travel outside of the U.S.”

In a preliminary statement, Stephanie Sulger, RN, MS, vice president of the consumer division of BridgeHealth International, Inc., said she “is very pleased to see the AMA addressing this issue.” “The guidelines the AMA has put out are comprehensive and show that they have given a lot of thought to the implications of medical travel for the U.S. healthcare system and, most importantly, for patient safety and well-being,” Sulger said. “We welcome the AMA to the discussion of how to make sure patients who travel for medical care, often for financial reasons, get the best possible care.”

To ensure that insurance companies and others that facilitate adhere to the new principles, the AMA said it will introduce model legislation for consideration of state lawmakers.

The American Medical Association (AMA) advocated that employers, insurance companies, and other entities that facilitate or incentivize medical care outside of the U.S. adhere to the following principles:

(1) Medical care outside of the U.S. must be voluntary.

(2) Financial incentives to travel outside the U.S. for medical care should not inappropriately limit the diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives that are offered to patients, or restrict treatment or referral options.

(3) Patients should only be referred for medical care to institutions that have been accredited by recognized international accrediting bodies (e.g., the Joint Commission International or the International Society for Quality in Health Care).

(4) Prior to travel, local follow-up care should be coordinated and financing should be arranged to ensure continuity of care when patients return from medical care outside the U.S.

(5) Coverage for travel outside the U.S. for medical care must include the costs of necessary follow-up care upon return to the U.S.

(6) Patients should be informed of their rights and legal recourse prior to agreeing to travel outside the U.S. for medical care.

(7) Access to physician licensing and outcome data, as well as facility accreditation and outcomes data, should be arranged for patients seeking medical care outside the U.S.

(8) The transfer of patient medical records to and from facilities outside the U.S. should be consistent with HIPAA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIPAA guidelines.

(9) Patients choosing to travel outside the U.S. for medical care should be provided with information about the potential risks of combining surgical procedures with long flights and vacation activities.

The AMA Guidelines are also available online (.pdf)