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1.  “Best care on home ground” versus “elitist healthcare”: concerns and competing expectations for medical tourism development in Barbados 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/s12939-015-0147-1
PMCID: PMC4320816  PMID: 25643761
Medical tourism; Health equity; Barbados; Focus groups; Thematic analysis; Health services; International medical travel; Caribbean; Qualitative methods
2.  “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 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-445
PMCID: PMC4263058  PMID: 25265935
Medical tourism; Multiple sclerosis; CCSVI; Canada
3.  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.
Highlights
•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”).
doi:10.1016/j.stemcr.2014.06.016
PMCID: PMC4266009  PMID: 25241736
4.  Promoting social responsibility amongst health care users: medical tourists’ perspectives on an information sheet regarding ethical concerns in medical tourism 
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1747-5341-8-19
PMCID: PMC4029305  PMID: 24314027
5.  Canadian family doctors’ roles and responsibilities toward outbound medical tourists 
Canadian Family Physician  2013;59(12):1314-1319.
Abstract
Objective
To explore how Canadian family doctors understand their roles and responsibilities toward patients who seek health care abroad.
Design
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.
Setting
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.
Participants
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).
Methods
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.
Conclusion
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
6.  Knowledge brokers, companions, and navigators: a qualitative examination of informal caregivers’ roles in medical tourism 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-94
PMCID: PMC3879033  PMID: 24289231
Informal caregiving; Medical tourism; Global health services; Healthcare providers; Qualitative analysis; Family caregivers
7.  “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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-37
PMCID: PMC3849019  PMID: 24053385
8.  “You’re dealing with an emotionally charged individual…”: an industry perspective on the challenges posed by medical tourists’ informal caregiver-companions 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-9-31
PMCID: PMC3733688  PMID: 23889860
Medical tourism; Informal caregiving; International patient coordinators; Patient; International health care
9.  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.
Background
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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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
Clinicaltrial.gov: NCT01608282; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01608282 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6G7sBBayI)
doi:10.2196/resprot.2553
PMCID: PMC3650932  PMID: 23659903
osteoarthritis physical activity; Internet; lifestyle intervention; theory of planned behavior
10.  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.
Objectives
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.
Design
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.
Participants
Seven professionals representing the domains of tissue banking, blood safety, health records, organ transplantation, dental care, clinical ethics and infection control participated.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002302
PMCID: PMC3586128  PMID: 23396563
Qualitative Research
11.  Understanding the impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados: a prospective, qualitative study of stakeholder perceptions 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-2
PMCID: PMC3600002  PMID: 23289812
12.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-125
PMCID: PMC3548744  PMID: 23259681
Family medicine; Canada; Unattached patients; Continuity; Attachment; Rural
13.  Use of medical tourism for hip and knee surgery in osteoarthritis: a qualitative examination of distinctive attitudinal characteristics among Canadian patients 
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-417
PMCID: PMC3515802  PMID: 23170924
14.  Critically examining diversity in end-of-life family caregiving: implications for equitable caregiver support and Canada’s Compassionate Care Benefit 
Introduction
Family (i.e., unpaid) caregiving has long been thought of as a ‘woman’s issue’, which ultimately results not only in gendered, but also financial and health inequities. Because of this, gender-based analyses have been prioritized in caregiving research. However, trends in current feminist scholarship demonstrate that gender intersects with other axes of difference, such as culture, socio-economic status, and geography to create diverse experiences. In this analysis we examine how formal front-line palliative care providers understand the role of such diversities in shaping Canadian family caregivers’ experiences of end-of-life care. In doing so we consider the implications of these findings for a social benefit program aimed at supporting family caregivers, namely the Compassionate Care Benefit (CCB).
Methods
This analysis contributes to a utilization-focused evaluation of Canada’s CCB, a social program that provides job security and limited income assistance to Canadian family caregivers who take a temporary leave from employment to provide care for a dying family member at end-of-life. Fifty semi-structured phone interviews with front-line palliative care providers from across Canada were conducted and thematic diversity analysis of the transcripts ensued.
Results
Findings reveal that experiences of caregiving are not homogenous and access to services and supports are not universal across Canada. Five axes of difference were commonly raised by front-line palliative care providers when discussing important differences in family caregivers’ experiences: culture, gender, geography, lifecourse stage, and material resources. Our findings reveal inequities with regard to accessing needed caregiver services and resources, including the CCB, based on these axes of difference.
Conclusions
We contend that without considering diversity, patterns in vulnerability and inequity are overlooked, and thus continually reinforced in health policy. Based on our findings, we demonstrate that re-framing categorizations of caregivers can expose specific vulnerabilities and inequities while identifying implications for the CCB program as it is currently administered. From a policy perspective, this analysis demonstrates why diversity needs to be acknowledged in policy circles, including in relation to the CCB, and seeks to counteract single dimensional approaches for understanding caregiver needs at end-of-life. Such findings illustrate how diversity analysis can dramatically enhance evaluative health policy research.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-65
PMCID: PMC3502300  PMID: 23116474
Diversity; Caregiving; Canada; End-of-life; Qualitative; Compassionate Care Benefit
15.  Interpreting the results of a modified gravity model: examining access to primary health care physicians in five Canadian provinces and territories 
Background
Primary health care (PHC) encompasses an array of health and social services that focus on preventative, diagnostic, and basic care measures to maintain wellbeing and address illnesses. In Canada, PHC involves the provision of first-contact health care services by providers such as family physicians and general practitioners – collectively referred as PHC physicians here. Ensuring access is a key requirement of effective PHC delivery. This is because having access to PHC has been shown to positively impact a number of health outcomes.
Methods
We build on recent innovations in measuring potential spatial access to PHC physicians using geographic information systems (GIS) by running and then interpreting the findings of a modified gravity model. Elsewhere we have introduced the protocol for this model. In this article we run it for five selected Canadian provinces and territories. Our objectives are to present the results of the modified gravity model in order to: (1) understand how potential spatial access to PHC physicians can be interpreted in these Canadian jurisdictions, and (2) provide guidance regarding how findings of the modified gravity model should be interpreted in other analyses.
Results
Regarding the first objective, two distinct spatial patterns emerge regarding potential spatial access to PHC physicians in the five selected Canadian provinces: (1) a clear north–south pattern, where southern areas have greater potential spatial access than northern areas; and (2) while gradients of potential spatial access exist in and around urban areas, access outside of densely-to-moderately populated areas is fairly binary. Regarding the second objective, we identify three principles that others can use to interpret the findings of the modified gravity model when used in other research contexts.
Conclusions
Future applications of the modified gravity model are needed in order to refine the recommendations we provide on interpreting its results. It is important that studies are undertaken that can help administrators, policy-makers, researchers, and others with characterizing the state of access to PHC, including potential spatial access. We encourage further research to be done using GIS in order to offer new, spatial perspectives on issues of access to health services given the increased recognition that the place-based nature of health services can benefit from the use of the capabilities of GIS to enhance the role that visualization plays in decision-making.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-230
PMCID: PMC3522026  PMID: 22852816
16.  Chronically ill Canadians’ experiences of being unattached to a family doctor: a qualitative study of marginalized patients in British Columbia 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:69.
Background
Unattached patients do not have a regular primary care provider. Initiatives are being developed to increase attachment rates across Canada. Most existing attention paid to patient unattachment has focused on quantifying the problem and health system costs. Our purpose is to qualitatively identify the implications of chronically ill patients’ experiences of unattachment for health policy and planning to provide policy-relevant insights for Canadian attachment initiatives.
Methods
Three focus groups were conducted with marginalized chronically ill individuals residing in a mid-sized city in British Columbia who are unattached to a family doctor. We use the term marginalized as a descriptor to acknowledge that by virtue of their low socio-economic status and lack of attachment the participants are marginalized in Canada’s health care system Focus groups were structured as an open conversation organized around a series of probing questions. They were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was employed.
Results
Twenty-six individuals participated in the focus groups. The most common chronic illnesses reported were active drug addiction or recovery (and their associated symptoms), depression, arthritis, and hepatitis C. Participants identified life transitions as being the root cause for not having a family doctor. There was a strong sense that unsuccessful attempts to get a family doctor reflected that they were undesirable patients. Participants wanted to experience having a trusting relationship with a regular family doctor as they believed it would encourage greater honesty and transparency. One of the main health concerns regarding lack of access to a regular family doctor is that participants lacked access to preventative care. Participants were also concerned about having a discontinuous medical record due to unattachment.
Conclusions
Participants perceived that there are many benefits to be had by having attachment to a regular family doctor and that experiencing unattachment challenged their health and access to health care. We encourage more research to be done on the lived experience of unattachment in order to provide on-the-ground insights that policy-makers require in order to develop responsive, patient-centred supports and programs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-69
PMCID: PMC3412741  PMID: 22799280
17.  “I didn’t even know what I was looking for”: A qualitative study of the decision-making processes of Canadian medical tourists 
Background
Medical tourism describes the private purchase and arrangement of medical care by patients across international borders. Increasing numbers of medical facilities in countries around the world are marketing their services to a receptive audience of international patients, a phenomenon that has largely been made possible by the growth of the Internet. The growth of the medical tourism industry has raised numerous concerns around patient safety and global health equity. In spite of these concerns, there is a lack of empirical research amongst medical tourism stakeholders. One such gap is a lack of engagement with medical tourists themselves, where there is currently little known about how medical tourists decide to access care abroad. We address this gap through examining aspects of Canadian medical tourists’ decision-making processes.
Methods
Semi-structured phone interviews were administered to 32 Canadians who had gone abroad as medical tourists. Interviews touched on motivations, assessment of risks, information seeking processes, and experiences at home and abroad. A thematic analysis of the interview transcripts followed.
Results
Three overarching themes emerged from the interviews: (1) information sources consulted; (2) motivations, considerations, and timing; and (3) personal and professional supports drawn upon. Patient testimonials and word of mouth connections amongst former medical tourists were accessed and relied upon more readily than the advice of family physicians. Neutral, third-party information sources were limited, which resulted in participants also relying on medical tourism facilitators and industry websites.
Conclusions
While Canadian medical tourists are often thought to be motivated by wait times for surgery, cost and availability of procedures were common primary and secondary motivations for participants, demonstrating that motivations are layered and dynamic. The findings of this analysis offer a number of important factors that should be considered in the development of informational interventions targeting medical tourists. It is likely that trends observed amongst Canadian medical tourists apply to those from other nations due to the key role the transnational medium of the Internet plays in facilitating patients’ private international medical travel.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-8-23
PMCID: PMC3475067  PMID: 22769723
Medical tourism; Decision-making; Qualitative; Surgery; Canada
18.  Risk communication and informed consent in the medical tourism industry: A thematic content analysis of canadian broker websites 
BMC Medical Ethics  2011;12:17.
Background
Medical tourism, thought of as patients seeking non-emergency medical care outside of their home countries, is a growing industry worldwide. Canadians are amongst those engaging in medical tourism, and many are helped in the process of accessing care abroad by medical tourism brokers - agents who specialize in making international medical care arrangements for patients. As a key source of information for these patients, brokers are likely to play an important role in communicating the risks and benefits of undergoing surgery or other procedures abroad to their clientele. This raises important ethical concerns regarding processes such as informed consent and the liability of brokers in the event that complications arise from procedures. The purpose of this article is to examine the language, information, and online marketing of Canadian medical tourism brokers' websites in light of such ethical concerns.
Methods
An exhaustive online search using multiple search engines and keywords was performed to compile a comprehensive directory of English-language Canadian medical tourism brokerage websites. These websites were examined using thematic content analysis, which included identifying informational themes, generating frequency counts of these themes, and comparing trends in these counts to the established literature.
Results
Seventeen websites were identified for inclusion in this study. It was found that Canadian medical tourism broker websites varied widely in scope, content, professionalism and depth of information. Three themes emerged from the thematic content analysis: training and accreditation, risk communication, and business dimensions. Third party accreditation bodies of debatable regulatory value were regularly mentioned on the reviewed websites, and discussion of surgical risk was absent on 47% of the websites reviewed, with limited discussion of risk on the remaining ones. Terminology describing brokers' roles was somewhat inconsistent across the websites. Finally, brokers' roles in follow up care, their prices, and the speed of surgery were the most commonly included business dimensions on the reviewed websites.
Conclusion
Canadian medical tourism brokers currently lack a common standard of care and accreditation, and are widely lacking in providing adequate risk communication for potential medical tourists. This has implications for the informed consent and consequent safety of Canadian medical tourists.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-12-17
PMCID: PMC3189886  PMID: 21943392
19.  What do we know about Canadian involvement in medical tourism? A scoping review 
Open Medicine  2011;5(3):e139-e148.
Background
Medical tourism, the intentional pursuit of elective medical treatments in foreign countries, is a rapidly growing global industry. Canadians are among those crossing international borders to seek out privately purchased medical care. Given Canada’s universally accessible, single-payer domestic health care system, important implications emerge from Canadians’ private engagement in medical tourism.
Methods
A scoping review was conducted of the popular, academic, and business literature to synthesize what is currently known about Canadian involvement in medical tourism. Of the 348 sources that were reviewed either partly or in full, 113 were ultimately included in the review.
Results
The review demonstrates that there is an extreme paucity of academic, empirical literature examining medical tourism in general or the Canadian context more specifically. Canadians are engaged with the medical tourism industry not just as patients but also as investors and business people. There have been a limited number of instances of Canadians having their medical tourism expenses reimbursed by the public medicare system. Wait times are by far the most heavily cited driver of Canadians’ involvement in medical tourism. However, despite its treatment as fact, there is no empirical research to support or contradict this point.
Discussion
Although medical tourism is often discussed in the Canadian context, a paucity of data on this practice complicates our understanding of its scope and impact.
PMCID: PMC3205829  PMID: 22046228
20.  An industry perspective on Canadian patients' involvement in Medical Tourism: implications for public health 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:416.
Background
The medical tourism industry, which assists patients with accessing non-emergency medical care abroad, has grown rapidly in recent years. A lack of reliable data about medical tourism makes it difficult to create policy, health system, and public health responses to address the associated risks and shortcomings, such as spread of infectious diseases, associated with this industry. This article addresses this knowledge gap by analyzing interviews conducted with Canadian medical tourism facilitators in order to understand Canadian patients' involvement in medical tourism and the implications of this involvement for public health.
Methods
Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with 12 medical facilitators from 10 companies in 2010. An exhaustive recruitment strategy was used to identify interviewees. Questions focused on business dimensions, information exchange, medical tourists' decision-making, and facilitators' roles in medical tourism. Thematic analysis was undertaken following data collection.
Results
Facilitators helped their Canadian clients travel to 11 different countries. Estimates of the number of clients sent abroad annually varied due to demand factors. Facilitators commonly worked with medical tourists aged between 40 and 60 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds who faced a number of potential barriers including affordability, fear of the unfamiliar, and lack of confidence. Medical tourists who chose not to use facilitators' services were thought to be interested in saving money or have cultural/familial connections to the destination country. Canadian doctors were commonly identified as barriers to securing clients.
Conclusions
No effective Canadian public health response to medical tourism can treat medical tourists as a unified group with similar motivations for engaging in medical tourism and choosing similar mechanisms for doing so. This situation may be echoed in other countries with patients seeking care abroad. Therefore, a call for a comprehensive public health response to medical tourism and its effects should be coupled with a clear understanding that medical tourism is a highly diverse practice. This response must also acknowledge facilitators as important stakeholders in medical tourism.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-416
PMCID: PMC3117713  PMID: 21627830
21.  Canada's Compassionate Care Benefit: Is it an adequate public health response to addressing the issue of caregiver burden in end-of-life care? 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:335.
Background
An increasingly significant public health issue in Canada, and elsewhere throughout the developed world, pertains to the provision of adequate palliative/end-of-life (P/EOL) care. Informal caregivers who take on the responsibility of providing P/EOL care often experience negative physical, mental, emotional, social and economic consequences. In this article, we specifically examine how Canada's Compassionate Care Benefit (CCB) - a contributory benefits social program aimed at informal P/EOL caregivers - operates as a public health response in sustaining informal caregivers providing P/EOL care, and whether or not it adequately addresses known aspects of caregiver burden that are addressed within the population health promotion (PHP) model.
Methods
As part of a national evaluation of Canada's Compassionate Care Benefit, 57 telephone interviews were conducted with Canadian informal P/EOL caregivers in 5 different provinces, pertaining to the strengths and weaknesses of the CCB and the general caregiving experience. Interview data was coded with Nvivo software and emerging themes were identified by the research team, with such findings published elsewhere. The purpose of the present analysis was identified after comparing the findings to the literature specific to caregiver burden and public health, after which data was analyzed using the PHP model as a guiding framework.
Results
Informal caregivers spoke to several of the determinants of health outlined in the PHP model that are implicated in their burden experience: gender, income and social status, working conditions, health and social services, social support network, and personal health practises and coping strategies. They recognized the need for improving the CCB to better address these determinants.
Conclusions
This study, from the perspective of family caregivers, demonstrates that the CCB is not living up to its full potential in sustaining informal P/EOL caregivers. Effort is required to transform the CCB so that it may fulfill the potential it holds for serving as one public health response to caregiver burden that forms part of a healthy public policy that addresses the determinants of this burden.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-335
PMCID: PMC3123207  PMID: 21592383
22.  Medical tourism 
Canadian Family Physician  2011;57(5):527-529.
PMCID: PMC3093576  PMID: 21571709
24.  Fly-By medical care: Conceptualizing the global and local social responsibilities of medical tourists and physician voluntourists 
Background
Medical tourism is a global health practice where patients travel abroad to receive health care. Voluntourism is a practice where physicians travel abroad to deliver health care. Both of these practices often entail travel from high income to low and middle income countries and both have been associated with possible negative impacts. In this paper, we explore the social responsibilities of medical tourists and voluntourists to identify commonalities and distinctions that can be used to develop a wider understanding of social responsibility in global health care practices.
Discussion
Social responsibility is a responsibility to promote the welfare of the communities to which one belongs or with which one interacts. Physicians stress their social responsibility to care for the welfare of their patients and their domestic communities. When physicians choose to travel to another county to provide medical care, this social responsibility is expanded to this new community. Patients too have a social responsibility to use their community's health resources efficiently and to promote the health of their community. When these patients choose to go abroad to receive medical care, this social responsibility applies to the new community as well. While voluntourists and medical tourists both see the scope of their social responsibilities expand by engaging in these global practices, the social responsibilities of physician voluntourists are much better defined than those of medical tourists. Guidelines for engaging in ethical voluntourism and training for voluntourists still need better development, but medical tourism as a practice should follow the lead of voluntourism by developing clearer norms for ethical medical tourism.
Summary
Much can be learned by examining the social responsibilities of medical tourists and voluntourists when they engage in global health practices. While each group needs better guidance for engaging in responsible forms of these practices, patients are at a disadvantage in understanding the effects of medical tourism and organizing responses to these impacts. Members of the medical professions and the medical tourism industry must take responsibility for providing better guidance for medical tourists.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-7-6
PMCID: PMC3083338  PMID: 21470415
25.  What is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries? A scoping review 
Background
Medical tourism involves patients intentionally leaving their home country to access non-emergency health care services abroad. Growth in the popularity of this practice has resulted in a significant amount of attention being given to it from researchers, policy-makers, and the media. Yet, there has been little effort to systematically synthesize what is known about the effects of this phenomenon. This article presents the findings of a scoping review examining what is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries.
Methods
Drawing on academic articles, grey literature, and media sources extracted from18 databases, we follow a widely used scoping review protocol to synthesize what is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries. The review design has three main stages: (1) identifying the question and relevant literature; (2) selecting the literature; and (3) charting, collating, and summarizing the data.
Results
The large majority of the 203 sources accepted into the review offer a perspective of medical tourism from the Global North, focusing on the flow of patients from high income nations to lower and middle income countries. This greatly shapes any discussion of the effects of medical tourism on destination and departure countries. Five interrelated themes that characterize existing discussion of the effects of this practice were extracted from the reviewed sources. These themes frame medical tourism as a: (1) user of public resources; (2) solution to health system problems; (3) revenue generating industry; (4) standard of care; and (5) source of inequity. It is observed that what is currently known about the effects of medical tourism is minimal, unreliable, geographically restricted and mostly based on speculation.
Conclusions
Given its positive and negative effects on the health care systems of departure and destination countries, medical tourism is a highly significant and contested phenomenon. This is especially true given its potential to serve as a powerful force for the inequitable delivery of health care services globally. It is recommended that empirical evidence and other data associated with medical tourism be subjected to clear and coherent definitions, including reports focused on the flows of medical tourists and surgery success rates. Additional primary research on the effects of medical tourism is needed if the industry is to develop in a manner that is beneficial to citizens of both departure and destination countries.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-9-24
PMCID: PMC2987953  PMID: 21047433

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