June 24, 2008
IMTA Challenges U.S. Doctors and Insurers to Follow AMA Directive for Medical Travel
Urging U.S. employers, insurers and physicians to provide follow-up care for returning medical tourists, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognizes that Americans have the right to travel outside the U.S. for medical treatment, states the International Medical Travel Association (IMTA; www.intlmta.org), a global organization that represents leading health care providers and medical travel facilitators around the world.
"This is a significant development in changing how and where Americans receive healthcare in the future," says Steven Tucker, M.D., president of the IMTA and a leading U.S. board-certified medical oncologist. "By issuing guidelines on medical tourism, the AMA is acknowledging the right of patients to seek affordable and quality medical care anywhere in the world, and we hope America's doctors and insurance companies are listening."
The IMTA points out that some U.S. physicians disparage patients who have gone abroad for surgery. As a result, returning patients who have continuing care needs or develop complications frequently must get help at hospital emergency rooms or from unfamiliar doctors.
"With a lack of guidelines for physicians, international patients are often treated like pariahs," adds Dr. Tucker. "Continuity of care is the number one concern of patients and they often need their hometown doctor's support. The AMA's position represents a major change, and one that we support: international patients should not be penalized and they should be treated the same as any other patient for after-care."
He says that financial liability, not currently addressed in the AMA guidelines, is still the major concern for those caring for medical travelers.
"The IMTA expects this will be addressed soon as a growing number of Americans choose to travel abroad for quality medical care," concludes Dr. Tucker.
The International Medical Travel Association is a global organization of stakeholders in the international medical travel industry, representing leading health care providers, medical travel facilitators and related industry service providers around the world. IMTA supports the development of international industry standards and best practices that promote and advance medical quality, safety, and transparency for the international patient, and that preserve and protect the doctor-patient relationship. IMTA, www.intlmta.org, is a not-for-profit association funded by membership dues and programs.