I have written a number of previous notes about medical tourism, some of which you can review here, here, here, and here. I believe that this is a significant trend in healthcare that needs to be tracked by the clinical lab industry. Here is a link to a recent article that discusses early efforts to provide accreditation for healthcare facilities in Kerala, which is a state in the south-west tip of India (link here). Below is an excerpt from the story:
Kerala Tourism is stepping up plans to make the state into one of the top five medical tourism destinations over the next five years. Although Kerala enjoys a comparative cost advantage, lack of accreditation of hospitals has been the major drawback in attracting this category of tourists to Kerala. [T]o overcome this, Kerala Tourism has taken the initiative to provide accreditation to hospitals in the State and to promote medical tourism....The Quality Council of India, functioning under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, through the National Accreditation Board for Hospital and Healthcare is to provide accreditation. Kerala Tourism will promote only hospitals that are granted accreditation.
I am sure that many Americans consumers, medical insurance companies, and companies offering healthcare to their employees may lack confidence in an Indian healthcare accreditation body such as the Quality Council of India, but this is clearly the first of many steps that will be taken to improve the quality of medical tourism by those countries promoting these services. There will definitely be a need for U.S.-based accreditation bod(ies) to evaluate offshore healthcare services on the basis of well-established criteria. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has launched the Joint Commission International (JCI) to accredit hospitals world-wide (link here) but I don't know how effective or accepted this program has been thus far.
The second missing critical piece in medical tourism is a system for indemnifying patients for malpractice related to offshore medical or surgical procedures. To quote an Indian web site on this specific topic, the issue of legal recourse for unsatisfactory treatment across international boundaries is a legally undefined issue at present (link here).
There is obviously a connection between such an initiative and the accreditation body described above. A U.S. accreditation body for medical tourism will provide insurance companies a better understanding of their risk when issuing such policies. I suspect that the compensation offered for offshore malpractice claims will be limited to some maximum fixed amount so that, again, the insurance company will be able to better calculate their risk when underwriting such policies.