Social Welfare through International Trade
Chapter 4: Quality
A second reason why patients go abroad is to enjoy a high standard of service. Some medical centres in the sending nations are among the best in the world. Not all, however, may be said to match the front runner’s level of excellence. A top-tier hospital in India or Thailand might have better capital equipment and more specialist manpower than an under-resourced provincial infirmary in rural Tennessee. The rapid expansion in health tourism has been made possible by the improvement in the quality of care in the foreign host countries. Otherwise there would be ethical concerns which doctors and insurers might find difficult to reconcile with their professional commitment. The standard of service might be better. At the very least it might be just as good. Milstein and Smith, comparing median care at home with median care abroad, speak of ‘lower-cost surgery at levels of quality that cannot be readily distinguished from domestic care’ (Milstein and Smith, 2006: 141). It is value for money. Curtis Schroeder, former CEO of Bumrungrad, has put it as follows: ‘We’re selling Cadillacs at Chevy prices’ (Economist, 2008). Something that is just as good but not nearly as dear should not automatically be dismissed out of hand merely because the view from the window is of palm trees and not the Golden Gate. This chapter, concerned with the quality of care, is divided into six sections. Section 1, ‘Perception and reality’, asks what travellers want and what they are likely to find. Section 2, ‘Malpractice’,...
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