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1.  Unpacking the financial costs of “bariatric tourism” gone wrong: Who holds responsibility for costs to the Canadian health care system? 
Canadian Journal of Surgery  2016;59(6):369-370.
Canadians are motivated to travel abroad for bariatric surgery owing to wait times for care and restrictions on access at home for various reasons. While such surgery abroad is typically paid for privately, if “bariatric tourists” experience complications or have other essential medical needs upon their return to Canada, these costs are borne by the publicly funded health system. In this commentary, we discuss why assigning responsibility for the costs of complications stemming from bariatric tourism is complicated and contextual.
PMCID: PMC5125917
2.  Providers’ perspectives on inbound medical tourism in Central America and the Caribbean: factors driving and inhibiting sector development and their health equity implications 
Global Health Action  2016;9:10.3402/gha.v9.32760.
Many governments and health care providers worldwide are enthusiastic to develop medical tourism as a service export. Despite the popularity of this policy uptake, there is relatively little known about the specific local factors prospectively motivating and informing development of this sector.
To identify common social, economic, and health system factors shaping the development of medical tourism in three Central American and Caribbean countries and their health equity implications.
In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in Mexico, Guatemala, and Barbados with 150 health system stakeholders. Participants were recruited from private and public sectors working in various fields: trade and economic development, health services delivery, training and administration, and civil society. Transcribed interviews were coded using qualitative data management software, and thematic analysis was used to identify cross-cutting issues regarding the drivers and inhibitors of medical tourism development.
Four common drivers of medical tourism development were identified: 1) unused capacity in existing private hospitals, 2) international portability of health insurance, vis-a-vis international hospital accreditation, 3) internationally trained physicians as both marketable assets and industry entrepreneurs, and 4) promotion of medical tourism by public export development corporations. Three common inhibitors for the development of the sector were also identified: 1) the high expense of market entry, 2) poor sector-wide planning, and 3) structural socio-economic issues such as insecurity or relatively high business costs and financial risks.
There are shared factors shaping the development of medical tourism in Central America and the Caribbean that help explain why it is being pursued by many hospitals and governments in the region. Development of the sector is primarily being driven by public investment promotion agencies and the private health sector seeking economic benefits with limited consideration and planning for the health equity concerns medical tourism raises.
PMCID: PMC5120386  PMID: 27876457
medical tourism; health services research; qualitative methods; Central America; Caribbean
3.  “That’s enough patients for everyone!”: Local stakeholders’ views on attracting patients into Barbados and Guatemala’s emerging medical tourism sectors 
Medical tourism has attracted considerable interest within the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. Governments in the region tout the economic potential of treating foreign patients while several new private hospitals primarily target international patients. This analysis explores the perspectives of a range of medical tourism sector stakeholders in two LAC countries, Guatemala and Barbados, which are beginning to develop their medical tourism sectors. These perspectives provide insights into how beliefs about international patients are shaping the expanding regional interest in medical tourism.
Structured around the comparative case study methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 medical tourism stakeholders in each of Guatemala and Barbados (n = 100). To capture a comprehensive range of perspectives, stakeholders were recruited to represent civil society (n = 5/country), health human resources (n = 15/country), public health care and tourism sectors (n = 15/country), and private health care and tourism sectors (n = 15/country). Interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded using a collaborative process of scheme development, and analyzed thematically following an iterative process of data review.
Many Guatemalan stakeholders identified the Guatemalan-American diaspora as a significant source of existing international patients. Similarly, Barbadian participants identified their large recreational tourism sector as creating a ready source of foreign patients with existing ties to the country. While both Barbadian and Guatemalan medical tourism proponents share a common understanding that intra-regional patients are an existing supply of international patients that should be further developed, the dominant perception driving interest in medical tourism is the proximity of the American health care market. In the short term, this supplies a vision of a large number of Americans lacking adequate health insurance willing to travel for care, while in the long term, the Affordable Care Act is seen to be an enormous potential driver of future medical tourism as it is believed that private insurers will seek to control costs by outsourcing care to providers abroad.
Each country has some comparative advantage in medical tourism. Assumptions about a large North American patient base, however, are not supported by reliable evidence. Pursuing this market could incur costs borne by patients in their public health systems.
PMCID: PMC5055712  PMID: 27717389
Medical tourism; Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region; Guatemala; Barbados; International patients; Comparative case study
4.  Medical tourism dialogue needs a broader scope 
PMCID: PMC4330148  PMID: 25691796
5.  Inbound medical tourism to Barbados: a qualitative examination of local lawyers’ prospective legal and regulatory concerns 
Enabled by globalizing processes such as trade liberalization, medical tourism is a practice that involves patients’ intentional travel to privately obtain medical care in another country. Empirical legal research on this issue is limited and seldom based on the perspectives of destination countries receiving medical tourists. We consulted with diverse lawyers from across Barbados to explore their views on the prospective legal and regulatory implications of the developing medical tourism industry in the country.
We held a focus group in February 2014 in Barbados with lawyers from across the country. Nine lawyers with diverse legal backgrounds participated. Focus group moderators summarized the study objective and engaged participants in identifying the local implications of medical tourism and the anticipated legal and regulatory concerns. The focus group was transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically.
Five dominant legal and regulatory themes were identified through analysis: (1) liability; (2) immigration law; (3) physician licensing; (4) corporate ownership; and (5) reputational protection.
Two predominant legal and ethical concerns associated with medical tourism in Barbados were raised by participants and are reflected in the literature: the ability of medical tourists to recover medical malpractice for adverse events; and the effects of medical tourism on access to health care in the destination country. However, the participants also identified several topics that have received much less attention in the legal and ethical literature. Overall this analysis reveals that lawyers, at least in Barbados, have an important role to play in the medical tourism sector beyond litigation – particularly in transactional and gatekeeper capacities. It remains to be seen whether these findings are specific to the ecology of Barbados or can be extrapolated to the legal climate of other medical tourism destination countries.
PMCID: PMC4517313  PMID: 26215979
Medical tourism; Legal; Barbados; Qualitative; Regulation
6.  A comparative analysis of potential spatio-temporal access to palliative care services in two Canadian provinces 
Access to health services such as palliative care is determined not only by health policy but a number of legacies linked to geography and settlement patterns. We use GIS to calculate potential spatio-temporal access to palliative care services. In addition, we combine qualitative data with spatial analysis to develop a unique mixed-methods approach.
Inpatient health care facilities with dedicated palliative care beds were sampled in two Canadian provinces: Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. We then calculated one-hour travel time catchments to palliative health services and extended the spatial model to integrate available beds as well as documented wait times.
26 facilities with dedicated palliative care beds in Newfoundland and 69 in Saskatchewan were identified. Spatial analysis of one-hour travel times and palliative beds per 100,000 population in each province showed distinctly different geographical patterns. In Saskatchewan, 96.7 % of the population living within a-1 h of drive to a designated palliative care bed. In Newfoundland, 93.2 % of the population aged 65+ were living within a-1 h of drive to a designated palliative care bed. However, when the relationship between wait time and bed availability was examined for each facility within these two provinces, the relationship was found to be weak in Newfoundland (R2 = 0.26) and virtually nonexistent in Saskatchewan (R2 = 0.01).
Our spatial analysis shows that when wait times are incorporated as a way to understand potential spatio-temporal access to dedicated palliative care beds, as opposed to spatial access alone, the picture of access changes.
PMCID: PMC4504407  PMID: 26183702
Palliative care; Rural health; GIS; Health service access
7.  Policy implications of medical tourism development in destination countries: revisiting and revising an existing framework by examining the case of Jamaica 
Medical tourism is now targeted by many hospitals and governments worldwide for further growth and investment. Southeast Asia provides what is perhaps the best documented example of medical tourism development and promotion on a regional scale, but interest in the practice is growing in locations where it is not yet established. Numerous governments and private hospitals in the Caribbean have recently identified medical tourism as a priority for economic development. We explore here the projects, activities, and outlooks surrounding medical tourism and their anticipated economic and health sector policy implications in the Caribbean country of Jamaica. Specifically, we apply Pocock and Phua’s previously-published conceptual framework of policy implications raised by medical tourism to explore its relevance in this new context and to identify additional considerations raised by the Jamaican context.
Employing case study methodology, we conducted six weeks of qualitative fieldwork in Jamaica between October 2012 and July 2013. Semi-structured interviews with health, tourism, and trade sector stakeholders, on-site visits to health and tourism infrastructure, and reflexive journaling were all used to collect a comprehensive dataset of how medical tourism in Jamaica is being developed. Our analytic strategy involved organizing our data within Pocock and Phua’s framework to identify overlapping and divergent issues.
Many of the issues identified in Pocock and Phua’s policy implications framework are echoed in the planning and development of medical tourism in Jamaica. However, a number of additional implications, such as the involvement of international development agencies in facilitating interest in the sector, cyclical mobility of international health human resources, and the significance of health insurance portability in driving the growth of international hospital accreditation, arise from this new context and further enrich the original framework.
The framework developed by Pocock and Phua is a flexible common reference point with which to document issues raised by medical tourism in established and emerging destinations. However, the framework’s design does not lend itself to explaining how the underlying health system factors it identifies work to facilitate medical tourism’s development or how the specific impacts of the practice are likely to unfold.
PMCID: PMC4491215  PMID: 26141384
Jamaica; Medical tourism; Health services; Health policy; Qualitative methods; International medical travel; Trade in health services; Caribbean
10.  Outbound medical tourism from Mongolia: a qualitative examination of proposed domestic health system and policy responses to this trend 
Medical tourism is the practice of traveling across international boundaries in order to access medical care. Residents of low-to-middle income countries with strained or inadequate health systems have long traveled to other countries in order to access procedures not available in their home countries and to take advantage of higher quality care elsewhere. In Mongolia, for example, residents are traveling to China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and other countries for care. As a result of this practice, there are concerns that travel abroad from Mongolia and other countries risks impoverishing patients and their families.
In this paper, we present findings from 15 interviews with Mongolian medical tourism stakeholders about the impacts of, causes of, and responses to outbound medical tourism. These findings were developed using a case study methodology that also relied on tours of health care facilities and informal discussions with citizens and other stakeholders during April, 2012.
Based on these findings, health policy changes are needed to address the outflow of Mongolian medical tourists. Key areas for reform include increasing funding for the Mongolian health system and enhancing the efficient use of these funds, improving training opportunities and incentives for health workers, altering the local culture of care to be more supportive of patients, and addressing concerns of corruption and favouritism in the health system.
While these findings are specific to the Mongolian health system, other low-to-middle income countries experiencing outbound medical tourism will benefit from consideration of how these findings apply to their own contexts. As medical tourism is increasing in visibility globally, continued research on its impacts and context-specific policy responses are needed.
PMCID: PMC4428501  PMID: 25935557
Medical Tourism; Mongolia; Health planning
11.  Medical tourism's impacts on health worker migration in the Caribbean: five examples and their implications for global justice 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.27348.
Medical tourism is a practice where individuals cross international borders in order to access medical care. This practice can impact the global distribution of health workers by potentially reducing the emigration of health workers from destination countries for medical tourists and affecting the internal distribution of these workers. Little has been said, however, about the impacts of medical tourism on the immigration of health workers to medical tourism destinations. We discuss five patterns of medical tourism-driven health worker migration to medical tourism destinations: 1) long-term international migration; 2) long-term diasporic migration; 3) long-term migration and ‘black sheep’; 4) short-term migration via time share; and 5) short-term migration via patient-provider dyad. These patterns of health worker migration have repercussions for global justice that include potential negative impacts on the following: 1) health worker training; 2) health worker distributions; 3) local provision of care; and 4) local economies. In order to address these potential negative impacts, policy makers in destination countries should work to ensure that changes in health worker training and licensure aimed at promoting the medical tourism sector are also supportive of the health needs of the domestic population. Policy makers in both source and destination countries should be aware of the effects of medical tourism on health worker flows both into and out of medical tourism destinations and work to ensure that the potential harms of these worker flows to both groups are mitigated.
PMCID: PMC4394164  PMID: 25865122
medical tourism; health human resources; global justice
12.  “You don’t want to lose that trust that you’ve built with this patient…”: (Dis)trust, medical tourism, and the Canadian family physician-patient relationship 
BMC Family Practice  2015;16:25.
Recent trends document growth in medical tourism, the private pursuit of medical interventions abroad. Medical tourism introduces challenges to decision-making that impact and are impacted by the physician-patient trust relationship—a relationship on which the foundation of beneficent health care lies. The objective of the study is to examine the views of Canadian family physicians about the roles that trust plays in decision-making about medical tourism, and the impact of medical tourism on the therapeutic relationship.
We conducted six focus groups with 22 family physicians in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Data were analyzed thematically using deductive and inductive codes that captured key concepts across the narratives of participants.
Family physicians indicated that they trust their patients to act as the lead decision-makers about medical tourism, but are conflicted when the information they are managing contradicts the best interests of the patients. They reported that patients distrust local health care systems when they experience insufficiencies in access to care and that this can prompt patients to consider going abroad for care. Trust fractures in the physician-patient relationship can arise from shame, fear and secrecy about medical tourism.
Family physicians face diverse tensions about medical tourism as they must balance their roles in: (1) providing information about medical tourism within a context of information deficits; (2) supporting decision-making while distancing themselves from patients’ decisions to engage in medical tourism; and (3) acting both as agents of the patient and of the domestic health care system. These tensions highlight the ongoing need for reliable third-party informational resources about medical tourism and the development of responsive policy.
PMCID: PMC4344996  PMID: 25884181
Trust; Physician-patient relationship; Medical tourism; Canada
13.  “Best care on home ground” versus “elitist healthcare”: concerns and competing expectations for medical tourism development in Barbados 
Many countries have demonstrated interest in expanding their medical tourism sectors because of its potential economic and health system benefits. However, medical tourism poses challenges to the equitable distribution of health resources between international and local patients and private and public medical facilities. Currently, very little is known about how medical tourism is perceived among front line workers and users of health systems in medical tourism ‘destinations’. Barbados is one such country currently seeking to expand its medical tourism sector. Barbadian nurses and health care users were consulted about the challenges and benefits posed by ongoing medical tourism development there.
Focus groups were held with two stakeholder groups in May, 2013. Nine (n = 9) citizens who use the public health system participated in the first focus group and seven (n = 7) nurses participated in the second. Each focus group ran for 1.5 hours and was digitally recorded. Following transcription, thematic analysis of the digitally coded focus group data was conducted to identify cross-cutting themes and issues.
Three core concerns regarding medical tourism’s health equity impacts were raised; its potential to 1) incentivize migration of health workers from public to private facilities, 2) burden Barbados’ lone tertiary health care centre, and 3) produce different tiers of quality of care within the same health system. These concerns were informed and tempered by the existing a) health system structure that incorporates both universal public healthcare and a significant private medical sector, b) international mobility among patients and health workers, and c) Barbados’ large recreational tourism sector, which served as the main reference in discussions about medical tourism’s impacts. Incorporating these concerns and contextual influences, participants’ shared their expectations of how medical tourism should locally develop and operate.
By engaging with local health workers and users, we begin to unpack how potential health equity impacts of medical tourism in an emerging destination are understood by local stakeholders who are not directing sector development. This further outlines how these groups employ knowledge from their home context to ground and reconcile their hopes and concerns for the impacts posed by medical tourism.
PMCID: PMC4320816  PMID: 25643761
Medical tourism; Health equity; Barbados; Focus groups; Thematic analysis; Health services; International medical travel; Caribbean; Qualitative methods
14.  “I knew what was going to happen if I did nothing and so I was going to do something”: Faith, hope, and trust in the decisions of Canadians with multiple sclerosis to seek unproven interventions abroad 
Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment is an unproven intervention aimed at relieving some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Despite limited evidence of the efficacy and safety of this intervention, Canadians diagnosed with MS have been traveling abroad to access this procedure as it is not available domestically outside of limited clinical trials. This paper discusses the experiences of Canadians with MS seeking CCSVI treatment abroad.
This paper presents a secondary analysis of 15 interviews with participants who had gone abroad for CCSVI treatment. Interviews were conducted over the phone between October 2012 and December 2012. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were hand coded for: 1) why CCSVI treatment was sought and where it was obtained; 2) the role of having hope for a cure in seeking CCSVI; 3) the impact of MS on everyday life; and 4) the role other people played in the decision to go abroad.
The authors identified loss of faith, hope, and trust as themes emerging from the transcripts. The participants experienced a loss of faith with the Canadian health system and especially the neurologists who were responsible for their care and the classification of MS as a neurological disease. Access to CCSVI treatment abroad generated hope in these participants, but they were cautious in their expectations, focusing on symptom management rather than a cure. Trust in their caregivers abroad was generated through the recommendations of other MS sufferers and the credentials of their caregivers abroad.
By deciding to seek an unproven intervention abroad, these individuals took on responsibility for their care from the Canadian health system. While evidence of the efficacy of CCSVI treatment is limited, the participants felt that they were making a rational care decision, focusing on the empowerment and renewed hope generated by seeking this intervention. Health professionals and policy makers globally should consider the causes of loss of faith in their domestic care systems and balance the benefits of empowerment and renewed hope against concerns that unproven interventions may create new health risks.
PMCID: PMC4263058  PMID: 25265935
Medical tourism; Multiple sclerosis; CCSVI; Canada
15.  Professional Regulation: A Potentially Valuable Tool in Responding to “Stem Cell Tourism” 
Stem Cell Reports  2014;3(3):379-384.
The growing international market for unproven stem cell-based interventions advertised on a direct-to-consumer basis over the internet (“stem cell tourism”) is a source of concern because of the risks it presents to patients as well as their supporters, domestic health care systems, and the stem cell research field. Emerging responses such as public and health provider-focused education and national regulatory efforts are encouraging, but the market continues to grow. Physicians play a number of roles in the stem cell tourism market and, in many jurisdictions, are members of a regulated profession. In this article, we consider the use of professional regulation to address physician involvement in stem cell tourism. Although it is not without its limitations, professional regulation is a potentially valuable tool that can be employed in response to problematic types of physician involvement in the stem cell tourism market.
•Stem cell tourism is a complex and growing phenomenon that raises various concerns•Physicians play important roles in this market and are often professionally regulated•Key features of professional regulation make it well placed to respond•It is appropriate to use available tools to mitigate risks of stem cell tourism
In this article, Zarzeczny and colleagues explore the use of professional regulation as a tool in responding to physicians’ involvement in the market for unproven stem cell-based interventions (“stem cell tourism”).
PMCID: PMC4266009  PMID: 25241736
16.  Promoting social responsibility amongst health care users: medical tourists’ perspectives on an information sheet regarding ethical concerns in medical tourism 
Medical tourists, persons that travel across international borders with the intention to access non-emergency medical care, may not be adequately informed of safety and ethical concerns related to the practice of medical tourism. Researchers indicate that the sources of information frequently used by medical tourists during their decision-making process may be biased and/or lack comprehensive information regarding individual safety and treatment outcomes, as well as potential impacts of the medical tourism industry on third parties. This paper explores the feedback from former Canadian medical tourists regarding the use of an information sheet to address this knowledge gap and raise awareness of the safety and ethical concerns related to medical tourism.
According to feedback provided in interviews with former Canadian medical tourists, the majority of participants responded positively to the information sheet and indicated that this document prompted them to engage in further consideration of these issues. Participants indicated some frustration after reading the information sheet regarding a lack of know-how in terms of learning more about the concerns discussed in the document and changing their decision-making. This frustration was due to participants’ desperation for medical care, a topic which participants frequently discussed regarding ethical concerns related to health care provision.
The overall perceptions of former medical tourists indicate that an information sheet may promote further consideration of ethical concerns of medical tourism. However, given that these interviews were performed with former medical tourists, it remains unknown whether such a document might impact upon the decision-making of prospective medical tourists. Furthermore, participants indicated a need for an additional tool such as a website for continued discussion about these concerns. As such, along with dissemination of the information sheet, future research implications should include the development of a website for ongoing discussion that could contribute to a raised awareness of these concerns and potentially increase social responsibility in the medical tourism industry.
PMCID: PMC4029305  PMID: 24314027
17.  Canadian family doctors’ roles and responsibilities toward outbound medical tourists 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(12):1314-1319.
To explore how Canadian family doctors understand their roles and responsibilities toward patients who seek health care abroad.
Six focus groups were held with family doctors across British Columbia to explore their experiences with and perspectives on outbound medical tourism. Focus groups were digitally recorded, transcribed, and subsequently thematically coded to discover common issues and themes across the entire data set.
Focus groups were held with family doctors in 6 cities in British Columbia that provided representation from all provincial health authorities and a range of urban contexts.
A total of 22 currently practising family doctors participated across the 6 focus groups, with groups ranging in size from 2 to 6 participants (average 4 participants).
Thematic analysis of the transcripts identified cross-cutting themes that emerged across the 6 focus groups.
Main findings
Participants reported that medical tourism threatened patients’ continuity of care. Informational continuity is disrupted before patients go abroad because patients regularly omit family doctors from preoperative planning and upon return home when patients lack complete or translated medical reports. Participants believed that their responsibilities to patients resumed once the patients had returned home from care abroad, but were worried about not being able to provide adequate follow-up care. Participants were also concerned about bearing legal liability toward patients should they be asked to clinically support treatments started abroad.
Medical tourism poses challenges to Canadian family doctors when trying to reconcile their traditional roles and responsibilities with the novel demands of private out-of-country care pursued by their patients. Guidance from professional bodies regarding physicians’ responsibilities to Canadian medical tourists is currently lacking. Developing these supports would help address challenges faced in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC3860932  PMID: 24336547
18.  Knowledge brokers, companions, and navigators: a qualitative examination of informal caregivers’ roles in medical tourism 
Many studies examining the phenomena of medical tourism have identified health equity issues associated with this global health services practice. However, there is a notable lack of attention in this existing research to the informal care provided by the friends and family members who typically accompany medical tourists abroad. To date, researchers have not examined the care roles filled by informal caregivers travelling with medical tourists. In this article, we fill this gap by examining these informal caregivers and the roles they take on towards supporting medical tourists’ health and wellbeing.
We conducted 21 interviews with International Patient Coordinators (IPCs) working at medical tourism hospitals across ten countries. IPCs work closely with informal caregivers as providers of non-medical personal assistance, and can therefore offer broad insight on caregiver roles. The interviews were coded and analyzed thematically.
Three roles emerged: knowledge broker, companion, and navigator. As knowledge brokers, caregivers facilitate the transfer of information between the medical tourist and formal health care providers as well as other staff members at medical tourism facilities. The companion role involves providing medical tourists with physical and emotional care. Meanwhile, responsibilities associated with handling documents and coordinating often complex journeys are part of the navigation role.
This is the first study to examine informal caregiving roles in medical tourism. Many of the roles identified are similar to those of conventional informal caregivers while others are specific to the transnational context. We conclude that these roles make informal caregivers an integral part of the larger phenomenon of medical tourism. We further contend that examining the roles taken on by a heretofore-unconsidered medical tourism stakeholder group sheds valuable insight into how this industry operates and that such knowledge is necessary in order to respond to the health equity debates that surround this particular global health services practice.
PMCID: PMC3879033  PMID: 24289231
Informal caregiving; Medical tourism; Global health services; Healthcare providers; Qualitative analysis; Family caregivers
19.  “Do your homework…and then hope for the best”: the challenges that medical tourism poses to Canadian family physicians’ support of patients’ informed decision-making 
BMC Medical Ethics  2013;14:37.
Medical tourism—the practice where patients travel internationally to privately access medical care—may limit patients’ regular physicians’ abilities to contribute to the informed decision-making process. We address this issue by examining ways in which Canadian family doctors’ typical involvement in patients’ informed decision-making is challenged when their patients engage in medical tourism.
Focus groups were held with family physicians practicing in British Columbia, Canada. After receiving ethics approval, letters of invitation were faxed to family physicians in six cities. 22 physicians agreed to participate and focus groups ranged from two to six participants. Questions explored participants’ perceptions of and experiences with medical tourism. A coding scheme was created using inductive and deductive codes that captured issues central to analytic themes identified by the investigators. Extracts of the coded data that dealt with informed decision-making were shared among the investigators in order to identify themes. Four themes were identified, all of which dealt with the challenges that medical tourism poses to family physicians’ abilities to support medical tourists’ informed decision-making. Findings relevant to each theme were contrasted against the existing medical tourism literature so as to assist in understanding their significance.
Four key challenges were identified: 1) confusion and tensions related to the regular domestic physician’s role in decision-making; 2) tendency to shift responsibility related to healthcare outcomes onto the patient because of the regular domestic physician’s reduced role in shared decision-making; 3) strains on the patient-physician relationship and corresponding concern around the responsibility of the foreign physician; and 4) regular domestic physicians’ concerns that treatments sought abroad may not be based on the best available medical evidence on treatment efficacy.
Medical tourism is creating new challenges for Canadian family physicians who now find themselves needing to carefully negotiate their roles and responsibilities in the informed decision-making process of their patients who decide to seek private treatment abroad as medical tourists. These physicians can and should be educated to enable their patients to look critically at the information available about medical tourism providers and to ask critical questions of patients deciding to access care abroad.
PMCID: PMC3849019  PMID: 24053385
20.  “You’re dealing with an emotionally charged individual…”: an industry perspective on the challenges posed by medical tourists’ informal caregiver-companions 
Patients engage in medical tourism when they privately obtain a medical care abroad. Previous research shows that many medical tourists travel abroad with friends and family members who provide support and assistance. Meanwhile, very little is known about this important stakeholder group, referred to here as caregiver-companions. In this article we examine the challenges that can be posed by caregiver-companions and the overall practice of informal caregiving in medical tourism from an industry perspective. Specifically, we report on the findings of interviews conducted with international patient coordinators (IPCs) who work at destination facilities. IPCs come into regular contact with caregiver-companions in their professional positions and thus are ideally suited to comment on trends they have observed among this stakeholder group as well as the challenges they can pose to medical tourists, health workers, and facilities.
We conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with 21 IPCs from 16 different facilities across nine countries. Topics probed in the interviews included caregiver-companion roles, IPCs’ and others’ interaction with caregiver-companions, and potential health and safety risks posed to medical tourists and caregiver-companions. Thematic analysis of the verbatim transcripts was employed.
Although most participants encouraged medical tourists to travel with a caregiver-companion, many challenges associated with caregiver-companions were identified. Three themes best characterize the challenges that emerged: (1) caregiver-companions require time, attention and resources; (2) caregiver-companions can disrupt the provision of quality care; and (3) caregiver-companions can be exposed to risks. IPCs pointed out that caregiver-companions may, for example, have a negative impact on the patient through cost of accompaniment or inadequate care provision. Caregiver-companions may also create unanticipated or extra work for IPCs, as additional clients and by ignoring established organizational rules, routines, and expectations. Furthermore, caregiver-companions may be susceptible to stresses and health and safety risks, which would further deteriorate their own abilities to offer the patient quality care.
Although caregiver-companions can pose challenges to medical tourists, health workers, and medical tourism facilities, they can also assist in enhancing best care and offering meaningful support to medical tourists. If caregiver-companions are open to collaboration with IPCs, and particularly in the form of information sharing, then their experience abroad can be safer and less stressful for themselves and, by extension, for the accompanied patients and facility staff.
PMCID: PMC3733688  PMID: 23889860
Medical tourism; Informal caregiving; International patient coordinators; Patient; International health care
21.  Capitalizing on the Teachable Moment: Osteoarthritis Physical Activity and Exercise Net for Improving Physical Activity in Early Knee Osteoarthritis 
JMIR Research Protocols  2013;2(1):e17.
Practice guidelines emphasize the use of exercise and weight reduction as the first line of management for knee osteoarthritis (OA). However, less than half of the people with mild OA participate in moderate intensity physical activity. Given that physical activities have been shown to reduce pain, improve quality of life, and have the potential to reduce the progression of joint damage, many people with OA are missing the benefits of this inexpensive intervention.
The objectives of this study are (1) to develop a behavioral theory-informed Internet intervention called Osteoarthritis Physical Activity & Exercise Net (OPEN) for people with previously undiagnosed knee OA, and (2) to assess the efficacy of the OPEN website for improving physical activity participation through a proof-of-concept study.
OPEN was developed based on the theory of planned behavior. Efficacy of this online intervention is being assessed by an ongoing proof-of-concept, single-blind randomized controlled trial in British Columbia, Canada. We are currently recruiting participants and plan to recruit a total of 252 sedentary people with previously undiagnosed knee OA using a set of validated criteria. Half of the participants will be randomized to use OPEN and receive an OA education pamphlet. The other half only will receive the pamphlet. Participants will complete an online questionnaire at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months about their participation in physical activities, health-related quality of life, and motivational outcomes. In addition, we will perform an aerobic fitness test in a sub-sample of participants (n=20 per study arm). In the primary analysis, we will use logistic regression to compare the proportion of participants reporting being physically active at or above the recommended level in the 2 groups, adjusting for baseline measurement, age, and sex.
This study evaluates a theory-informed behavioral intervention at a time when people affected with OA tend to be more motivated to adopt an active lifestyle (ie, at the early stage of OA). Our approach, which consisted of the identification of early knee OA followed immediately by an online intervention that directly targets physical inactivity, can be easily implemented across communities.
Our online intervention directly targets physical inactivity at a time when the joint damage tends to be mild. If OPEN is found to be effective in changing long-term physical activity behaviors, it opens further opportunities to promote early diagnosis and to implement lifestyle interventions.
Trial Registration NCT01608282; (Archived by WebCite at
PMCID: PMC3650932  PMID: 23659903
osteoarthritis physical activity; Internet; lifestyle intervention; theory of planned behavior
22.  Ethical and legal implications of the risks of medical tourism for patients: a qualitative study of Canadian health and safety representatives’ perspectives 
BMJ Open  2013;3(2):e002302.
Medical tourism involves patients’ intentional travel to privately obtain medical care in another country. Empirical evidence regarding health and safety risks facing medical tourists is limited. Consideration of this issue is dominated by speculation and lacks meaningful input from people with specific expertise in patient health and safety. We consulted with patient health and safety experts in the Canadian province of British Columbia to explore their views concerning risks that medical tourists may be exposed to. Herein, we report on the findings, linking them to existing ethical and legal issues associated with medical tourism.
We held a focus group in September 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia with professionals representing different domains of patient health and safety expertise. The focus group was transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Seven professionals representing the domains of tissue banking, blood safety, health records, organ transplantation, dental care, clinical ethics and infection control participated.
Five dominant health and safety risks for outbound medical tourists were identified by participants: (1) complications; (2) specific concerns regarding organ transplantation; (3) transmission of antibiotic-resistant organisms; (4) (dis)continuity of medical documentation and (5) (un)informed decision-making.
Concern was expressed that medical tourism might have unintended and undesired effects upon patients’ home healthcare systems. The individual choices of medical tourists could have significant public consequences if healthcare facilities in their home countries must expend resources treating postoperative complications. Participants also expressed concern that medical tourists returning home with infections, particularly antibiotic-resistant infections, could place others at risk of exposure to infections that are refractory to standard treatment regimens and thereby pose significant public health risks.
PMCID: PMC3586128  PMID: 23396563
Qualitative Research
23.  Understanding the impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados: a prospective, qualitative study of stakeholder perceptions 
Medical tourism is a global health practice where patients travel internationally with the intention of receiving medical services. A range of low, middle, and high income countries are encouraging investment in the medical tourism sector, including countries in the Caribbean targeting patients in North America and Europe. While medical tourism has the potential to provide economic and employment opportunities in destination countries, there are concerns that it could encourage the movement of health workers from the public to private health sector.
We present findings from 19 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the public health care, private health care, government, allied business, and civil society sectors. These interviews were conducted in-person in Barbados and via phone. The interview transcripts were coded and a thematic analysis developed.
Three themes were identified: 1) Stakeholder perceptions of the patterns and plans for health human resource usage by current and planned medical tourism facilities in Barbados. We found that while health human resource usage in the medical tourism sector has been limited, it is likely to grow in the future; 2) Anticipated positive impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These benefits included improved quality control, training opportunities, and health worker retention; and 3) Anticipated negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These impacts included longer wait times for care and a shift in planning priorities driven by the medical tourism sector.
Stakeholders interviewed who were connected to medical tourism expansion or the tourism sector took a generally positive view of the likely impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. However, stakeholders associated with the public health system and health equity expressed concern that medical tourism may spread inequities in this country. The mechanisms by which observed negative health equity impacts in other countries will be avoided in Barbados are unclear. Continued study in Barbados and comparison with the regulatory frameworks in other countries is needed to help enhance positive and mitigate negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. These findings will likely have import for other Caribbean nations investing in medical tourism and beyond.
PMCID: PMC3600002  PMID: 23289812
24.  In search of attachment: a qualitative study of chronically ill women transitioning between family physicians in rural Ontario, Canada 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:125.
Most Canadians receive basic health services from a family physician and these physicians are particularly critical in the management of chronic disease. Canada, however, has an endemic shortage of family physicians. Physician shortages and turnover are particularly acute in rural regions, leaving their residents at risk of needing to transition between family physicians. The knowledge base about how patients manage transitioning in a climate of scarcity remains nascent. The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of transitioning for chronically ill, rurally situated Canadian women to provide insight into if and how the system supports transitioning patients and to identify opportunities for enhancing that support.
Chronically ill women managing rheumatic diseases residing in two rural counties in the province of Ontario were recruited to participate in face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically to identify emergent themes associated with the transitioning experience.
Seventeen women participated in this study. Ten had experienced transitioning and four with long-standing family physicians anticipated doing so soon. The remaining three expressed concerns about transitioning. Thematic analysis revealed the presence of a transitioning trajectory with three phases. The detachment phase focused on activities related to the termination of a physician-patient relationship, including haphazard notification tactics and the absence of referrals to replacement physicians. For those unable to immediately find a new doctor, there was a phase of unattachment during which patients had to improvise ways to receive care from alternative providers or walk-in clinics. The final phase, attachment, was characterized by acceptance into the practice of a new family physician.
Participants often found transitioning challenging, largely due to perceived gaps in support from the health care system. Barriers to a smooth transition included inadequate notification procedures, lack of formal assistance finding new physicians, and unsatisfactory experiences seeking care during unattachment. The participants’ accounts reveal opportunities for a stronger system presence during transition and a need for further research into alternative models of primary care delivery.
PMCID: PMC3548744  PMID: 23259681
Family medicine; Canada; Unattached patients; Continuity; Attachment; Rural
25.  Use of medical tourism for hip and knee surgery in osteoarthritis: a qualitative examination of distinctive attitudinal characteristics among Canadian patients 
Medical tourism is the term that describes patients’ international travel with the intention of seeking medical treatment. Some medical tourists go abroad for orthopaedic surgeries, including hip and knee resurfacing and replacement. In this article we examine the findings of interviews with Canadian medical tourists who went abroad for such surgeries to determine what is distinctive about their attitudes when compared to existing qualitative research findings about patients’ decision-making in and experiences of these same procedures in their home countries.
Fourteen Canadian medical tourists participated in semi-structured phone interviews, all of whom had gone abroad for hip or knee surgery to treat osteoarthritis. Transcripts were coded and thematically analysed, which involved comparing emerging findings to those in the existing qualitative literature on hip and knee surgery.
Three distinctive attitudinal characteristics among participants were identified when interview themes were compared to findings in the existing qualitative research on hip and knee surgery in osteoarthritis. These attitudinal characteristics were that the medical tourists we spoke with were: (1) comfortable health-related decision-makers; (2) unwavering in their views about procedure necessity and urgency; and (3) firm in their desires to maintain active lives.
Compared to other patients reported on in the existing qualitative hip and knee surgery literature, medical tourists are less likely to question their need for surgery and are particularly active in their pursuit of surgical intervention. They are also comfortable with taking control of health-related decisions. Future research is needed to identify motivators behind patients’ pursuit of care abroad, determine if the attitudinal characteristics identified here hold true for other patient groups, and ascertain the impact of these attitudinal characteristics on surgical outcomes. Arthritis care providers can use the attitudinal characteristics identified here to better advise osteoarthritis patients who are considering seeking care abroad.
PMCID: PMC3515802  PMID: 23170924

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