Implementing the AMA’s Guidelines for Medical Tourism


1. The AMA’s Report and Guidelines

In June 2007, the American Medical Association (“AMA”) released a report entitled “Medical Travel Outside the U.S.,” which tried to explain why people are going abroad for medical care. According to the AMA, the treatments are the ever escalating cost of healthcare and the lack of affordable health insurance.

On June 16, 2008 the AMA re-entered the conversation with Guidelines on Medical Tourism. These important issues of patient safety, transparency, financial incentives, after care, and legal liability guidelines. The AMA’s contributions to medical travel industry such as the early stage is notable and important. Many American doctors are very willing to seek care for returning medical travelers. Those doctors are understandably concerned about the incurring liability for another physician’s malpractice Medical Condition.

Widespread resistance in the medical community led many to believe that the AMA would either ignore or actively oppose the development of the medical travel industry. Instead, most were surprised by the AMA’s desire to come out in front of the issue and announce the guidelines that some view as a traveling patient’s bill or rights.

As the health insurance industry and employers, the AMA’s contributions promote patient safety and protection. The AMA has legitimate international industry with only limited support from mainstream healthcare networks. Since the AMA entered the discourse, more and more health insurers were evaluating whether medical travel makes sense today, tomorrow or sometime soon.

At this stage, AMA did not mean to stamp out medical travel. This may be a part of consumer-driven movement’s nature and the reality of restricted resources at home. Instead, the medical professionals will propose a model of legislation for patients who go abroad for treatment.

2. The Guidelines and Who Will be Impacted

The AMA’s Guidelines on Medical Tourism are enumerated below. Each patient important decision-making address, safety, protection and recovery.

a. Medical care outside of the U.S. must be voluntary.

b. Financial incentives to travel outside the U.S. for medical care, not appropriate limits for diagnostic and therapeutic alternatives that are offered to patients, or restrictive treatment or referral options.

c. It has been recognized that international accrediting bodies (e.g., the Joint Commission International or the International Society for Quality in Health Care) have been accredited.

d. Prior to travel, local follow-up care should be coordinated and financing should be returned from medical care outside the US.

e. Coverage for travel outside the U.S. for medical care must include the necessary care for return to the U.S.

f. Patients should be informed of their rights and legal recourse. To agree to travel outside the U.S. for medical care.

g. Access to physician licensing and data outcome, as well as facility accreditation and outcomes.

h. The transfer of medical records to and from facilities outside the U.S. should be consistent with the HIPAA guidelines.

i. Patients choose to travel outside the U.S. For information about the potential for medical care, we have to provide information about the potential of long flights and vacation activities.

Generally, these guidelines appear to be directed at health insurers and employers incorporating foreign providers into healthcare travel plans and medical travel experts coordinating the patient travel experience. The Guidelines seek to protect patients from being pressured by healthcare providers to accept lower quality care in the event of a bad outcome. The AMA repeatedly stresses the importance of patients of their rights and recourse, the hospital and doctor’s credentials, and potential risks associated with combining travel activities with surgical procedures.