The association is expanding its reach by teaming with the Global Healthcare Accreditation Program for Medical Travel Services.
The American Association for Physician Leadership is expanding its worldwide reach by entering a partnership with the Global Healthcare Accreditation Program for Medical Travel Services, which specializes in enhancing care and experiences of patients who travel for medical treatment.
“We recognize that as medical travel continues to expand, there is simultaneously a need for exceptional accreditation standards and ongoing processes focused on providing the highest levels of quality, safety and efficiency for patient care,” says Peter Angood, president and CEO of AAPL, which has physician members in 42 countries. “Global Healthcare Accreditation, for us, is the primary leader for developing these standards and assisting organizations with their abilities to enhance the provision of superb medical travel services.”
In this partnership, as GHA assesses and identifies medical travel programs lacking in leadership and accreditation, its feedback might include a referral of clients to AAPL to help fill those organizational gaps. Physicians associated with GHA or its accredited organizations will receive exclusive access to discounts on AAPL membership and selected educational programs.
“I think our partnership with AAPL will bring value to these organizations who may not have had access to these types of courses,” says Bill Cook, GHA’s director of business development and marketing.
GHA, which already works in countries such as Greece, Mexico, Thailand, Croatia and Saudi Arabia, is targeting other Middle Eastern countries, Asia and Latin America — in addition to areas within the United States — as places for potential growth.
“Most organizations, in both developed and developing countries outside the U.S., [recognize] the critical role of physician leadership and want to emulate best practices around patient safety or quality infrastructure,” says Karen Timmons, CEO of GHA. “I would expect that the AAPL programs would definitely be of interest to our clients, and we’ll highlight them as we’re talking to organizations.”
The value of the AAPL program extends beyond the need to “build muscle” through education, Timmons says. AAPL credentials help elevate a system’s reputation in the international medical arena.
The role of physician leadership is essential to providing traveling patients with a continuum of touchpoints, including awareness of second-opinion programs, pretravel blood work or testing, assessing post-operative fitness for travel, discharge advice and continuity of care upon returning home.
One challenging aspect of medical tourism is the resistance of some clinicians to accept traveling patients, Timmons says. That accents the importance of effective leadership, especially in the face of ethical guidelines recently adopted by the American Medical Association, advising physicians to “offer their best professional guidance” and “respond compassionately” to requests for follow-up care from returning patients — even those who sought care abroad without prior consultation.
The fact that medical standards and practices are not universal pose another kind of problem. “In today’s world, different countries have different ethical mores,” Timmons says, “so I think physicians, no matter where they reside, set the standard with regard to experimental treatment. You want to make sure patients are not paying money for treatments that aren’t appropriate or would not be successful.”
Regardless of any differences, however, the goal of any health care organization is to build the reputation of its staff while providing the best possible patient care and experience, Timmons says. “The aspect of compassion and empathy is very important,” she says, “because medical travel patients are especially vulnerable. Just think, if you’re traveling a long distance to a different country, a different culture, and you might not speak the same language, having that empathetic compassion and having physician leaders, in particular, embrace that is very important.”