U.S. physician adoption of global care: Part 1

U.S. physician adoption of global care is lagging.

Global care refers to the process of patients leaving home for healthcare. Sometimes referred to by the inappropriate moniker "medical tourism" (surgery is no vacation), patients moving around the world for cosmetic surgery, dentistry, in vitro fertilization and surrogate births, bariatric surgery and a host of other procedures has grown, by some estimations, to be a $100 billion industry growing at a 25 percent compound annual growth rate.

Countries, hospitals and individual providers around the world are positioning themselves to take advantage of this opportunity, and U.S. healthcare reform, regardless of the outcome of court challenges, is only adding fuel to the fire.

Having recently returned from the 3rd Annual Global Connected Care Conference and Meditour Expo, where I had the privilege of being the program chairman, my observation is that U.S. physicians are reluctant to integrate global referrals and consultations into their practices for four basic reasons.

First, they lack awareness of the emergence of the trend and do not have the knowledge, skills and abilities to integrate international care into their practices.

Second, doctors are afraid of the malpractice and referral liability associated with treating and referring patients to and from non-U.S. providers.

Third, building an international referral and consultation element to an existing practice is perceived to add workflow disruption, systems challenges and costs to practices that are already struggling to cope with rising overhead and decreasing revenues.

Last, there does not seem to be enough of an incentive to participate, particularly since payment for pre- and post-operative services do not compare to those paid to do the surgery. Also, docs question the wisdom of sending a patient to someone outside of their city, state or country to do a procedure.

In subsequent postings, I'll discuss each of these and mention some efforts the global care community has started to remove the barriers to participation. In the meantime, consider adding international referrals and consultations to the menu of services you offer patients as another innovation in care delivery.

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